Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do you switch off at funerals? (40% don't power off their mobile) Do you tweet? (3% have)

I can *exclusively reveal that a survey of two thousand funeral attendees found that 3% had used social media (Facebook or Twitter) at a funeral, and 4% thought it was acceptable to use social media to describe what was taking place at a funeral.  [* It’s ok, I washed my mouth out with soap after typing the tabloid E word.]

Eamonn Mallie – I’m looking at you! While your funeral tweeting has been scoffed at in the past, and is often the subject of debate at tweet-ups and seminars, 4% of folk are with you!

In fact, of those surveyed across the UK, one in six had used their phone during a funeral.

I used to tell folk that I only switched my phone off for funerals and flights. Increasingly that’s not true.

On a plane, the phone just goes into flight mode rather than being fully powered off. (Bluetooth is allowed on most airlines once the seatbelt lights have been extinguished.)

Funerals had become another situation when the phone was simply slipped onto silent.

A couple of years ago, I silenced my phone as I got out of the car and headed into an East Belfast church to attend a funeral. I remember doing it as I’d paused when a colleague walked past the car and told him that I was fixing my phone before going any further.

Somewhere in the middle of the tribute I felt a vibration in the chest pocket of my jacket. The vibration that comes a second before the ringer goes off. For that second I was calm. Only I would notice the vibration. And I could slip my hand into the pocket and hit the button to reject the call.

What happened next caused my heartbeat to race and no doubt my neck to go red. bRing! bRing! Whaaaa … I’d taken precautions. I’d set it to silent! How could it be ringing? It takes a lot longer to reach into your pocket to switch off a noisy phone that one that’s simply vibrating.

The ground didn’t open up and swallow me. A lightning bolt didn’t crash through the roof of the church and strike me down. Though I half expect to be held to account for the incident at the pearly gates!

Later on when I was thinking straight again, I realised that my phone had already been on silent earlier that morning. So I’d actually un-silenced it getting out of the car. And I hadn’t looked down at the screen to check. Holding in the ‘C’ button had been enough every other time.

For a while after that I switched my phone off at funerals. But more recently I’ve lapsed back to silencing it … though I nearly always visually check it is muted nowadays.

As well as being purveyors of food and banking, The Co-operative Group run hundreds of funeral homes across the UK, including 19 local ones under the banner of Funeral Services Northern Ireland. The survey I referred to early was commissioned by the Co-Op and the two thousand adult funeral attendees were cornered at some of their funeral homes across the UK.

I suspect we’ll be reading a lot about the results of the survey in this morning’s papers and hearing the issues discussed on the radio. Like the regular Travelodge surveys – the ones that reveal a third of British adults share their bed with a teddy bear – the funeral industry’s mobile survey is very accessible and easily conveyed, with a sprinkling of advertising thrown in for good measure!

Some more statistics (non-exclusive ones this time!):
  • 70% of people thought that it was unacceptable to use your mobile phone at a funeral. That’s higher than while driving (55%), at a wedding (41%), on a train (18%) or on a plane (18%).
  • Yet 40% of those polled said they wouldn’t turn their mobile off at a funeral: 30% would put their phone on silent; 10% would refuse to even turn the sound down. (It’s not quite clear from the press release whether that’s 30% of the 40% (ie, 12% of total polled) that put their phone on silent; or whether the 40% = 30% silent + 10% sound still up.)

Beverley Brown – General Manager of Funeral Services Northern Ireland –talked about the hypocrisy of the public position:
“We are witnessing a cultural shift in society’s stance on funeral etiquette. Although people universally despise the use of mobile phones at funerals, many exercise double standards by frowning upon the use of mobiles by others when they are unwilling to turn the sound down or turn their own phone off.

As people become ever more time-pressed and ever more welded to their phones, the use of mobiles has become commonplace at events which would have been considered unthinkable only a few years ago, and none more so than at a funeral.”

Sentiment shared exactly by David Collingwood, operations director of Co-operative Funeralcare in the Guardian. Great minds think alike - that's how it works with regionalised press releases!

But if our phones were off, then we couldn’t take calls, tweet, read emails ... or film the service.
Over one in four people in Northern Ireland talk [on the phone] during funerals, in the north of England over one in 10 admitted to leaving their phone on by mistake while Londoners and those from the South East were the most likely to make a call. One in 40 East Midlanders have filmed a funeral on a mobile phone!

I can’t find any quantitative stats but there is anecdotal evidence that some people are being buried with their mobile phones … occasionally in mobile-phone shaped caskets!

It does make me stop and think. The only place I’m truly offline and out of touch with the world is while on a long haul flight.

Being constantly “on the grid” is certainly normal, but can it also be healthy? Well connected but perhaps constantly distracted?

It's a subject that digital researcher Aleks Krotoski tackles in two recent episodes of The Digital Human on Radio 4: Isolation (listen to the last 7 minutes) and Detox (covers solitude). [available as podcasts]

Statistics and neat infographics from FSNI/Co-Op

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