Social Norms and Cell Phones

OutToLunchA New York Times piece on the rise of smart phones offers an interesting take on how social norms drive use of technologies via expectations:

“The social norm is that you should respond [to e-mail] within a couple of hours, if not immediately,” said David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. “If you don’t, it is assumed you are out to lunch mentally, out of it socially, or don’t like the person who sent the e-mail.”

The spread of those social assumptions may signal a technological crossover that echoes the proliferation of e-mail itself more than a decade ago. At some point in the early 1990s, it became socially unacceptable — at least for many people — to not have an e-mail address.

(Note: this entry originally appeared at

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