An Official iPhone Break: The Simple Way to Alleviate Smartphone Separation Anxiety

It happened today at a business lunch. I was meeting with two serial technology entrepreneurs discussing their latest venture. After our lunch plates were cleared, the rhetorical question was raised, “iPhone break?” We each speechlessly agreed and grabbed for our smartphones. 

It seems we had met the limit to the separation anxiety which had been bubbling up since the last time we were able to politely check email and our push notifications; respond to texts; and check our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare accounts. For the next five minutes we sat silently and as if in bliss, as we pecked and swiped and clicked.

We were on an Official iPhone Break.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve participated in an OiPB <chuckle>. In fact, a formalized break in conversation—rather than just reaching for your phone in the middle of conversation, seems like the social de rigueur.

Similar to “bathroom breaks,” or “stepping out to make a quick call”—it is the current, and seemingly most polite way to manage the need for a few moments of “personal time” with the Internet.

“May we take an iPhone Break?” is another way of saying “I need a moment to reconnect with the outside world. 

With smartphones as ubiquitous as air <hyperbole intended> the need to have our device firmly clenched in our palms at all times is becoming a life-necessity <and a bit of sarcasm here>. We are tethered so much to the little device that gives us constant access to the outside world that they’re often called a “third hand.” We think we can multitask through anything while we text, email, and update our status.

However, there are still times when using your third hand is inappropriate in business—during meetings, brainstorming sessions, or business lunches. Call it Old-School, but there is still a level of respect delivered by looking at someone direct in the eye while they’re discussing an important business strategy, plotting the overthrow of your boss, or figuring out how you can get out of the next “team building exercise.”

But how do you deliver “all due respect” and still deal with the separation anxiety which the folks at Apple have forced on society?

An Official iPhone Break.

Here are FIVE rules to follow if you chose to (or are forced-in-to) an OiPB:

  1. Always wait for a lull in conversation—never cut someone for a break.
  2. Let the “top man on the totem poll” call for the break—see etiquette rules around who-you-hold the door open-for as a guide.
  3. Sit silently during the break. Even if you received a text that makes you want to ROFLMAO—don’t do it.
  4. Never let a break go on for more than five minutes. Yep, five minutes.
  5. Don’t just reach for your phone without asking if everyone agrees to the break. There must be consensus—it’s not an Official iPhone Break unless everyone nods silently in agreement.

Just call me the Emily Post of Silicon Valley.

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