Mobile Manners

Cell phones are still a very new technology, and we don’t have decades of experience to draw upon when considering how to be courteous mobile phone users. As a result, many of the most persistent annoyances in our modern world are related to inappropriate mobile phone usage. Here are several common sense etiquette tips to make you a more conscientious and considerate mobile phone user.

Lower your voice
Loud talkers are without a doubt the most frequently criticized cell phone users. There is nothing more annoying than hearing a stranger yell about his or her personal life four feet away from you. Fortunately, the microphone technology on modern cell phones is advanced enough to pick up normal speaking voices unless there is a considerable amount of background noise, so yelling isn’t necessary. Speak at the same volume that you use when speaking to someone who is right next to you.

Seek separation
Overhearing someone else’s conversation on a cell phone is distracting. In fact, a recent Cornell University study found that hearing half a conversation on a cell phone is more distracting than hearing two people carrying on a normal conversation. A good rule of thumb is to walk at least 10 feet away from other people, if you must take a call in public.

Be present
If you want to make someone feel unimportant and unappreciated, just answer text messages and emails while he or she is talking to you. Nothing is more insulting that being subtly told, “I’d rather respond to an email than listen to you.” Most people who engage in this practice contend that they are multitasking—listening intently to one friend while texting another. However, no matter how good you are at multitasking, you cannot simultaneously be fully invested in two conversations.

Don’t hold up the line
If you are waiting in line at the coffee shop or any retail environment, stay off your phone. The cashier may need to ask you questions about your order, and if you are on the phone, everything will move more slowly, inconveniencing the cashier and everyone behind you in line.

Understand Latency
You may have noticed how often you are interrupted while talking on a cell phone. It’s not because all of your friends are rude. Cell phones have a slight delay in the signal transfer, and this delay has been getting worse over the last few years. As more calls are taking place between two cell phones (instead of at least one landline), the latency increases. Also, third-party services like Google Voice add another layer of latency, causing even longer delays. As a result, many phone calls today have a noticeable latency period that can make conversations difficult. When you notice this occurring, explain the issue to the other caller, and use clear cues to indicate when each person has finished speaking.

Avoid the dropped call blame game
When you drop a call while having a full signal, you may be tempted to specify that your phone was not the culprit. Resist the urge. It’s impolite to imply that someone else’s phone or network is of inferior quality to yours. Instead, defuse the blame game by making a quick joke about modern technology and moving on.

Screaming child rule
In some locations, the mere act of having your cell phone ring is rude. As a general rule of thumb, your phone should be switched to silent mode whenever you enter a location where it would not be appropriate to bring a screaming child (e.g., movie theaters, churches, and business meetings).

Avoid annoying ringtones
Avoid ringtones that may irritate other people. Unfortunately, just about every ringtone can be annoying, if it’s not your ringtone. Loud ringing noises and pop songs are among the most annoying. Chimes and simple musical melodies (like a Mozart tune) are the least annoying. Your safest bet is the default ringtone that comes with the phone—or, better yet, turn your phone to silent mode.

Ask for permission to answer your phone
No matter how polite you are, there will be times when you need to take a phone call in public. There are two ways you can make this interruption less rude. First, prepare people for the interruption. For instance, “I have an important client scheduled to call within the next hour. I may need to excuse myself abruptly to answer that call.” Second, when the call arises, ask for permission to accept it. For instance, “My client is calling now. Do you mind if I step into the other room to answer the call?”

Don’t interrupt the movie
If you are at a theater (or anywhere else where there is low light), the simple act of turning on your cell phone could be very distracting to the people around you. It’s hard to concentrate on a movie when the person next to you is radiating light from his or her lap. If you need to access your phone for any reason during a movie or play, excuse yourself and step outside before turning your phone on.

Don’t text and drive
Cell phone-related car accidents are on the rise. And, with all the stuff you can do on your phones these days, it’s not just texting and talking taking eyes off the road. More and more drivers are checking webpages, apps, and emails while driving. This doesn’t just endanger your life; it endangers the lives of everyone on the road. Buy a hands-free kit for in-phone calls and pull over if you need to read text messages, send emails, or access a website from your phone.

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