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20-40-60 Etiquette: Are we ready for Google Glass?

The Oklahoman's 20-40-60 etiquette panel and guests explore etiquette and privacy issues related to Google Glass as the new wearable device goes out on the town.
by Clytie Bunyan and Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman and Adam Kemp and Callie Gordon Modified: August 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm •  Published: August 26, 2013

Most who see me wearing the device are not that concerned with privacy because they can see when it's recording, and I'm not hiding it on my face. That fear seems to be more in the abstract or in the news. As more people have them, however, I can see concerns about secret recordings and videos growing simply because we're not paying attention to who around us has a camera. That happens now with smartphones, security cameras, etc.

Also, fears about it being distracting dissipate when they see how high up on the face it sits, out of my field of vision. The distraction happens more when a person first wears it and gets used to the controls. It's very comfortable.

However, the longer I have it the more self-conscious I have become with Glass on. It is an attention-getter, where I either find myself answering questions from strangers about it or I am the recipient of some strange, curious stares. I love answering and demonstrating it, but after a short time, I put it away when I'm with friends so I can enjoy hearing what they're doing instead of having the focus be on me.

I do see the need for some etiquette rules to guide us, but they're similar to the Golden Rule that already applies to all etiquette situations — treat other people as you want to be treated:

Don't record without people's permission, and be clear when you're taking a photo or start a video. Don't make the other person uncomfortable when you're wearing them; even if you're not recording, take it off if they ask you to. And be wary of what the device is doing while you're wearing it. When I told a recent story to some friends in person, something I said threw the device into voice activation mode, specifically a Google search. While I had Glass connected to my smartphone, it keyed in on a certain phrase I said in telling the story about zip lining. When I looked up at the device, I was surprised to see such risqué photos in my Glass stream. To keep that from happening again, I banished it to the car temporarily.

But that's the problem. As Glover said, “if you're not wearing them you're not getting any use out of them.”

It's been difficult for me to get past the novelty of Glass and actually using it to be helpful. I would rather tell the world “I'm using this device for work reasons,” than just be wearing it on my face for personal use.

I find that Glass is a remarkable device that will truly be helpful in the future. Today it's fun to use it to dream about possibilities, and people have found some marvelous niche uses for it. But it has a long way to go before the general public accepts it as an essential part of the day like we now regard our smartphones.

CLYTIE BUNYAN, 50s, director of business and lifestyles for The Oklahoman and NewsOK: It's Sunday, and I'm contemplating over breakfast whether to wear Glass to church. I'd worn it before, one day at lunch and patrons stopped eating to ask about what it can and can't do. To have that reaction at Mass was worrisome, but the Glass is so cool that I couldn't resist wearing it after I got dressed.

I walked in to church and could see the heads turning as I walked to my seat. The young man in the pew ahead of mine smiled broadly when he turned around and saw the one-lens contraption on my face. Others looked curiously, clearly wondering what in the world I was wearing.

The internal debate I'd been having all morning got into full gear. As a journalist, I love the possible capabilities of the Glass; as an individual, not so much, especially in places where privacy is assumed. There's something rather uncomfortable about recording people without their knowledge. Mass was about to begin, and though I'm sure there may be an argument for wearing Glass in church, such as to record the mass to watch it again later, I felt an overwhelming irreverence. I decided this was not a place for Glass. If cellphones had to be off, Glass should be stored as well. I didn't want to be the cause of people disregarding why they were in church.

After Mass, I took it out again and allowed some friends to try it on. But it seemed like there was divine interference. The Wi-Fi disconnected.

Incidentally, I also think patrons should not be allowed to wear Glass at a restaurant. Can you imagine some unflattering photo of you while eating showing up all over social media?

HELEN FORD WALLACE, 60-plus, The Oklahoman's Society Editor and “20-40-60” panelist: While wearing Google Glass, I quickly realized that it is my new favorite technology. On a trip to Stillwater for an interview with Ann Hargis, wife of Oklahoma State University president, Burns Hargis, the only trouble I had was trying to figure out how to extend video time. I kept scrolling to the wrong screen. It was distracting to the people I was interviewing and to me. It might not have been so distracting if I had known how to work it properly. I used Google Glass to take video of the gardens and photographs of the people that I needed for my newspaper article.

I felt like I had a friend helping me record what I was seeing, which was OSU gardens. When I said, “OK, Glass” to launch voice activation commands, it was in the ready mode and I didn't have to dig around in my purse for a camera or a phone.

One other distraction of Google Glass was the fact that people who knew what it was wanted to talk about it or to try it on.

Ann Hargis, as she watched me wear Glass around, noted “I appreciate having the light on (a small button right on the glass) for video so I know I am being recorded.”

Really, if I owned Google Glass I would wear it as much as possible, but I would ask permission of the person I was interviewing. If I already had the Glass on my face and gave instructions to turn it off or on, the person I was interviewing could also hear those instructions. They could ask me to refrain from taking pictures or recording if they wanted to and I would certainly comply. So, new etiquette rules would seem to be to at least let people know you are taking pictures and/or recording.

When you are using it as a smartphone, you are looking outward while you are taking a picture, as opposed to being behind a camera, and also, when you are using the voice-activated texting mode, you are also looking outward and not down at your phone. You can wear Google Glass and look at people and stay engaged in conversation, which is always good manners.

Although it will take some practice to learn to use it in the right way, it's a great interview tool. It's a great conversation piece. I love Google Glass!

To ask an etiquette question, email For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to

by Clytie Bunyan
Director of Business and Lifestyles
Clytie Bunyan joined The Oklahoman in 1989 as a Metro desk reporter. She later moved to the Business desk to cover real estate and presided over extensive coverage in the 1990s about the then-uncertain future of the Skirvin Hotel. She also has...
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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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by Adam Kemp
Enterprise Reporter
Adam Kemp is an enterprise reporter and videographer for the Oklahoman and Kemp grew up in Oklahoma City before attending Oklahoma State University. Kemp has interned for the Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Gazette and covered Oklahoma State...
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by Callie Gordon
Freelance Writer
Callie Gordon, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, is working at Chesapeake Energy in the Environment, Health, and Safety Department. She was previously an event coordinator for Chesapeake Energy.
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