12 days of Digital Etiquette

How to use your smart devices responsibly so you don't turn into the digital Grinch everyone tries to avoid this year

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We try not to talk with our mouths full of food, nor speak over someone until they're finished talking. Etiquette exists for a reason — to make everyone feel comfortable. Smart devices have changed these rules, however, requiring we adapt now that connected tech is a big part of our lives. Secret snaps posted to social media. Capturing video footage of our neighbor's front door. These are not issues anyone faced a generation past. Our 12 days of digital etiquette can help you navigate today's smart gadgets while still enjoying the holiday season.


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Rule Number 1: Unplug smart video cameras

Unplug recording devices like smart cameras. Not everyone wants to be seen and heard. These devices can make people feel like they're being watched — exactly the opposite of how anyone wants to feel during the holidays. People want to relax, they want to unwind, they want to know that after a drink, there isn't a recording lying around.


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Rule Number 2: Use social media discretion

Don't post party pictures, videos and anything identifying other people to social media without asking. Unless it's a public place, people should still have the right to assume some privacy. And yes this includes posts of the family dog. And of course do we even need to mention kids? Plus it's just good manners. Tip: If someone is kissing under the mistletoe leave it off social unless they just got engaged, or they've been married 30 years.


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Rule Number 3: Give thoughtful smart home gifts

Buy smart gifts with some thought. Does your gift recipient already have an Amazon Alexa? Maybe get them something that you can use with it instead of another Echo Dot. Consider the person you're buying the device for as well: maybe a smart lock is too tricky for them to install, but they'd love a fun smart light bulb to change the colors in their home.


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Rule Number 4: Respond to invites

Answer invitations that come over email, text and social media. A digital invite doesn't mean to ignore it. This is still an invitation, still actually a gift sent to you — "Hey, come spend some time with me we'd love to see you!" It should be answered, answered quickly and answered thoughtfully.


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Rule Number 5: Practice holiday light decorum

Consider your neighbors when installing smart lights at the holidays. Look we get that you want to light up your house with good cheer. But go the extra step and make sure your lights aren't too intensely colored (those LED lights can be very bright), and don't stay up all night if your home is just feet from your neighbor's. Old-fashioned timers helped us get our holiday decorations and lights up and off. Smart lights can do the same — and can be tied into routines you can set up through any of the major assistants, and through customized requests so you can lock the doors, turn on the security camera and turn off the red and green lights outside before you tuck into sleep.


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Rule number 6: Avoid smart speaker pranks

Unplug your smart speakers. This one is for you. To start, not all are tied to your voice, and some can be used by other people to perhaps unlock a door, or create a new routine. For your own peace of mind, take your smart speakers and devices connected to voice assistants and stash them in a closet or drawer. You surely have other ways to play music during the holidays.


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Rule number 7: Don't ask for Wi-Fi access

Don't ask your host for the Wi-Fi password. See if they offer it first. It's kind of like asking them for the password to their computer. You'd never do that. Very few people don't have a cellular connection on their phones any more. If you're a house guest staying for more than a few days, it's likely you're a family member and then the rules can bend here. But if not, budget for getting online with your cell phone carrier — and maybe use your data a bit less. If you're a guest, put down the phone, pitch in and help make a meal or clean up.




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Rule number 8: Spend time with family, not your smartphone

Stay off your devices. Unplug them when people come over. Put your smartphone down. Or pick up an app like Forest, which rewards you for staying off your smartphone for long periods of time. It's nice to breathe for a moment. And a recent LinkedIn survey showed that almost three-quarters of all processionals would prefer time off then a bonus. Time is precious. It's the best gift you can give.


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Rule number 9: Don't drop-in with video calls

Video calls are great and new smart devices like Alexa Show and the Lenovo Smart Display bring friends and family closer when they can't be with you for the holiday. But be mindful that not everyone is always camera ready for a quick drop in just because you called. If you own a device like this you can flip the privacy shutter on some — Lenovo has one, for example, Echo Show does not. If not, just be aware that sometimes a digital knock (like a text that asks if you want to video chat) might be nice.



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Rule number 10: Put AR/VR devices away

If you still have a Google Glass lying around, the AR device that recording anything as people walked around just from the pair of glasses on their head. Keep it away. People hated them. It's like having a smart camera recording you.


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Rule number 11: Don't be a bore

There's a difference between being an evangelist and a dictator. If you love something, you should talk about it. That's great. Showing people you're latest tech crush is great. But don't walk into someone's house and tell them how to change everything because you think they should. That's just rude — and a sure fire way to get them to ignore everything you're suggesting. Want to be a trend setter? Let people ask you about your latest device, or mention something once you think could help. But don't start monopolizing the conversation about how Alexa will change their lives.



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Rule number 12: Don't infringe on privacy

Just because you have access to information doesn't mean you should act on it. For example, a lot of smart video doorbells and cameras give you a window into what's happening on your street, or even your neighbor's front door step. So let's say you see the UPS man drops off three packages at a neighbor's home, and they're at work. You should not walk across the street, grab those packages and bring them in to your place. You could send a text asking if they need help (and wait for a response.) Or maybe they've asked you to pick up packages. But ultimately people have a right to privacy — and that starts at their doorstep.


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