cell phone courtesy

Can anyone tell me when exactly it became okay to use, not just cell phones, but technology in general as an excuse to be discourteous to one another?
At one point in time you wouldn’t even consider answering a phone call during family dinner.  Now, I frequently see people out in restaurants who spend barely 1/4 of their meal speaking to the person at the table with them.  They’re answering calls, emails, texts or just plain searching things online.
I remember this starting when call waiting was introduced.  You’d be in the midst of a conversation with someone and get cut off by this muted beep mid-sentence.  Then the person would check the other call to determine if the new caller was more important than you.  It irritated me to no end.  And what really ticked me off was sometimes you’d be left waiting on the other line for ages while they had a discussion with the interrupter.  I clearly have little patience for any of this so if the person wasn’t back on the line with me in a minute, I’d hang up.
I, personally, have a rule for myself that I don’t answer my cell when spending time with a friend.  If it rings I may check the number to make sure it’s not urgent.  But, let’s face it, how often do we genuinely get an emergency call?  I expect the same courtesy from my friends, which even my  most tech-addicted ones can respect.
I’m possibly a bit overly sensitive about this because I also don’t believe in talking on my phone during dog walks.  I just think that whomever (including my animals) I’m with deserves my full attention.  It’s their time to spend out in the world with me~ and not only do I find it a disservice to them to be distracted and dragging them around while I talk, but I also find the quality of conversation I can give to a person on the phone to be sub-par.  Why should I be on the phone when I can’t focus fully on a conversation?  Quality of conversation is important to me on both sides.
And we can’t blame this on a new generation who have grown up with all these devices because I’ve seen it from every age group.
Part of the problem is that the issue is so prevalent that we’re making it seem okay to our influential little ones, who will be the ones setting the new standards of courtesy in technology and quality of communication, and the other part is we don’t demand courtesy or focus from one another often enough.  We accept being ignored by our friends as they pay attention to their devices more than the person in front of them, and the fractured communication they offer us.
For example, I ride the streetcar daily with people who are abusing the comfort of other passengers.  People talking loudly on their phone for the whole ride, spending ages goofing around with ring tones, playing music on speaker, or (my favourite) the person with the MOST ANNOYING ring… like a squawking chicken… who gets 10 calls which they don’t answer but also has no idea how to shut of their ringer!  And the 40 other riders allow themselves to be held hostage by this one rude jerk.

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