Following reading this article from jaklumen's blog, it occurred to me that I didn't know what the rules are for cell phone etiquette. My parents never had cellular phones — they were invented during my generation — so they couldn't really teach me to be polite about using one. Emily Post was waaaaaay before cell phones so it probably wouldn't turn up in any book I ever read.
That said, I Googled "cell phone etiquette" and this is what I found. If you follow the link, you'll see that the author uses some pretty strong language, probably because some of the things he mentioned are particularly annoying. For those people who would rather not follow the link and have to endure the language, however understandable, here are the top ten rules again.
- Talking too loudly. Advances in cellular technology have made microphones much more sensitive than they were in the days of the first 'phones. Still, for some reason, people continue to yell into their cell phones. To be considerate of others, your voice shouldn't ever raise above a normal conversational tone. If you find yourself needing to shout, due to environmental noise or such, it's usually preferred that you look for quieter surroundings. For those who tend to shout into their phones as a way to brag to the surrounding public, please understand that we don't know you and, most likely, we could care less.
- Holding inappropriate conversations in public. On general principles, if it's personal it doesn't belong in a public place where just anyone could hear you. Such topics as the last party you staggered home from, your latest sexual escapade, and how your significant other ruined your life are topics that don't belong in public. Imagine how embarrassed you'd feel if some stranger brought that up in front of someone you were trying to impress. With that in mind, wait to discuss it when you're in a more private location.
- Interrupting conversations. If you are in conversation with someone, it is considered rude to answer your cellular phone in the middle, no matter how important the call may be. This is why man invented voice mail. If you're in a conversation, either let your companion know that you're expecting an important call from someone or, if you can, set your phone so that calls go directly to voice mail. Otherwise, turn it off! If it's really important, they'll call you back.
- Checking your phone at the movies. There's a reason the theater puts "Please turn off your cell phone in the theater" on the screen before a movie. People usually watch movies in the theater because they are hoping to be immersed in the story. It's difficult for us to get into things when people are talking or texting on their phones during the movie. If you have to give your friend a blow by blow description of the movie or your opinion of it, bring a pad of paper and a pencil, sit in the back of the theater and take notes. Talking or texting into your phone during a movie ruins the experience for other people. Think how you would feel if you were trying to watch a movie while someone else was talking or texting near your elbow. Then, even if you think you could handle it, turn your phone off anyway. As with number 3, if it's really important, they'll call you back.
- Texting while driving. Texting while driving isn't just rude, it's dangerous. In order to text while you're driving, you have to take your eyes off the road. There's no way around it. "According to a Harvard University study, cell phones cause over 200 deaths and half a million injuries each year." You wouldn't read a book while driving. You wouldn't type on your laptop while driving. Both reading and typing are done during texting. So, unless you're looking forward to spending time in the hospital and dealing with the insurance companies of the other people who got hurt, too, for all our sakes, turn it off. For the sake of information, many states are putting anti-cell phone laws into place that make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving. Most, if not all, of these laws carry expensive penalties. Just another reason to turn your phone off while you're driving.
- Texting while talking. If answering your cell phone during a conversation is rude, texting during a conversation is twice as rude. Dividing your attention between a conversation and another activity has always been considered rude. It's called not giving someone your full attention. When you do this, you make your conversational companion believe that what they are saying isn't important to you, which is inconsiderate of their feelings. If a friend texts you in the middle of a conversation, hold off answering it until you're done talking with your conversational companion. Whoever texted you will wait.
- Texting small talk. The only reason for small talk is boredom. Many cellular companies still charge their clients minutes per text. That said, it's difficult to imagine that anyone would be pleased to waste their minutes so that someone can cease being bored. When people get a text, they expect to get interesting or important information. Most people you text are doing something they consider to be important to them. Even if it doesn't cost them minutes to text you or be texted by you, it's still inconsiderate to expect them to text you back. Honestly, if you're bored, find something to do that doesn't include interrupting your friend with a text message.
- Loud and annoying ringtones. The example the original author gave was of a phone whose ringtone, turned up very loud, was repetitive screaming. I can think of other annoying tones that are just as bad, if not worse. Suffice it to say that it's important to give some consideration to what your ringtone is going to seem like to other people. You might think it's interesting or even funny, but many people may just find your ringtone annoying. Think about Weird Al Yankovik's song, "Ringtone" when you think of which one you're going to use. Whatever you pick should be tasteful, personal, and only loud enough that you can hear it. Put another way, understand that your loud, obnoxious ringtone won't make you look cool. It'll just make you look rude.
- Disturbing live performances. As with the the movie theater, there is no reason why your cell phone should be on during a performance, no matter what the performance is. The person or people on the stage have put a lot of work into their art and won't appreciate you for interrupting them for a phone call. If you find you must have your phone on during such a performance, set it to vibrate and keep it in your hand. Then, if it goes off, excuse yourself and go somewhere private to take the call. Otherwise, turn it off. As the original author pointed out, some performances can even be unusually dangerous when interrupted by a cell phone call. Even if they don't warn you to turn off your cell phone, be considerate of the other members of the audience and shut it off anyway. As I've said before, if it's really important, they'll call you back.
- Consider your location. There are a number of locations where a cell phone is distinctly out of place. Two mentioned by the original author were libraries and fast-food restaurant lines. I would add church, especially during a service, and museums and art galleries. Places where, just generally, people are either trying to give important information to someone or enjoy their environment and the things contained in it. As with previous numbers, if you find that you must have your cell phone on in such an environment, keep it on vibrate in your hand and leave if it goes off. This way you can be considerate of other patrons or customers.
Here's one solution a Subway restaurant tried. The point, of course, is that etiquette is all about consideration for others. Think about how your actions are effecting other people and don't do anything that your neighbors, meaning other people around you, might find annoying. Be helpful, considerate and, above all, safe.