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Senator Mike Duffy (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Senator Mike Duffy (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

DRAWN OFF TOPIC

Senator Mike Duffy on tech etiquette Add to ...

Broadcast journalist Mike Duffy is a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He entered the Senate in 2009.

Are you a tech guy?

Yeah, to some degree. I’m into computers and BlackBerrys and whatever. I use high tech to supplement what I do and speed up the process. I don’t do Facebook or Twitter. Twitter seems so terribly banal. I feel no motivation to take part in profound conversations of 140 characters.

Are you speaking to me on something digital and exotic, or the generic Ma Bell handset?

I’m speaking to you on a two-line cordless digital phone. They’re not very common. If I could get glass – fibre – to the house, I would. I have the highest speed it is possible to get, both in Ottawa and in Prince Edward Island.

Are you an etiquette guy? Do you know which fork to use in a four-fork place setting?

You start on the outside and work in.

My family were good. We weren’t allowed to use the word “kids.” My grandparents said kids are baby goats. I grew up in a family where etiquette mattered, and I think one should bring that same kind of thinking to the use of these tools.

In the recent 18th edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette , manners for digital devices and social networks were addressed.

The only people who would read that book would be people who probably don’t need to read it. When you look around you, you see how standards have fallen. But I’m not prissy about that. There are so many really important things to worry about. Uncouth behaviour, there’s not much you can do about now.

Every parliamentarian I know has a BlackBerry and the netiquette in Parliament is you keep it down low so you don’t appear disinterested in who you are speaking to. You don’t want to appear rude.

Do you have a discreet ring tone?

In Parliament, I have my vibrator on at all times. One wants to be discreet. You can’t have any device that makes a noise.

What about in real life? Are you bothered by intrusive ring tones or obnoxiously loud cellphone conversations?

It depends on the restaurant you are in. If you are in a sports bar and calling your buddy to come over and join you, I guess that’s okay. High dining – you wouldn’t shout across a neighbouring table. I think discretion is the thing. Think before you do it.

Discretion seems to have been left in the 20th century. We are all regularly subjected to loud, private cellphone conversations in public spaces.

That’s not my style. I use a hands-free speaker in the car and I get a lot of business done. I’ll put on the speaker phone and carry on [work]discussions.

Some of the faux pas Emily Post suggested were answering the cellphone mid-meal, mid-sex or mid-bowel movement. Sound reasonable?

Yeah! Yesterday, I was having lunch with somebody from the PMO. He had a BlackBerry on the table of the parliamentary dining room. He could see, just having it sit there if he had an urgent call from the office. Other calls come in and he just discreetly pushed “ignore,” but if it were a call from the PMO or the boss personally – I don’t think the PM carries a BlackBerry …

Maybe he’s telepathic.

[Anyway]when the screen lights up and he sees it’s someone important, he says, “Excuse me,” picks up the device, doesn’t actually speak and walks out into the foyer to take the call.

Is that not rude? Does it not suggest that his lunch companion is not as important as the caller?

We all have bosses. It was the discreet thing to do.

Are you an iPod user? Do you consider it rude when someone is speaking to you with ear buds in, listening to tunes at the same time?

I actually have a Sony device that is even smaller. I may be an old fuddy duddy here, but I haven’t personally run into that, although I’m sure it occurs. What these people do or don’t do or whether they have their ear buds in or out when they are buying their lattes, I don’t even see it.

Twitter: Does tweeting not assume an inherent ill-mannered self-absorption in believing that the world cares about reading one’s every random thought?

It is such meaningless drivel. It is a reflection on the people who do it. … Part of the function of age is our sense of ourselves and where we fit in the world. It’s for a younger generation.

It is only rude on Twitter if someone is actually reading it and saying, “This is drivel.” I don’t read it.

On Facebook, is it rude to ignore unsolicited friendship requests?

I have enough in life without trying to figure out Facebook. I never go there. I don’t actually understand how it works. I don’t lack for friends in the real world.

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