Cell phone etiquette


“…so I told her to **** off…”  That was a piece of a conversation I couldn’t help overhearing in a store recently.  The speaker, a teenage girl, was apparently unhappy with something another girl had done and she littered her five-minute conversation with profanities and vulgarities, completely insensitive to anyone standing nearby, including a mother with two young children. 

I’m tired of bad phone manners.  When I was a child we were taught how to answer the phone, how to take a message, how long to let it ring before hanging up, and what not to talk about on the telephone.  The telephone was an extension of the privacy of one’s home and it was treated that way.  Today, it seems, anything goes.  Now that nearly everyone has a phone in their pockets or purses, it is time to update phone manners.  Here are twelve rules for cell phone etiquette.

Rule 1:  You don’t have to shout into a cell phone.  They work fine most of the time and speaking in a normal voice is all that is necessary.  Shouting into a cell phone is like talking louder to someone who doesn’t speak your language.  It doesn’t accomplish anything.

Rule 2: If you have to say, “Can you hear me now?” more than three times, hang up and talk to him/her later.  Walking around in circles for three or four minutes, repeatedly asking the caller if she/he can hear you, and looking at your cell phone to see how many bars you have doesn’t make reception any better.
Rule 3: When you have to talk on the phone, keep your conversations short unless you are alone.

Rule 4: Always observe the 10-foot rule.  For example, it is rude to talk on the phone while standing in line at the grocery store.  By the way, ducking as you talk on the phone doesn’t keep people from hearing you.

Rule 5:  Don’t answer a text or phone call while you are talking face-to-face with someone.  That is equivalent to saying, “Wow, someone more interesting than you might be on my phone!”  Let voice mail pick up incoming calls and check your texts and emails when you are alone.  Most cell phone conversations are not emergencies and they can wait.  If you absolutely must take a call, ask permission to take the call from the person you are talking to and excuse yourself.

Rule 6: When you are in the company of others, turn off those obnoxious beeps, chirps, and alarms that go off every time you get a text message. 
Rule 7: In a public performance or meeting, don’t insult the presenter by thinking he/she is too dumb to notice that you are texting below the edge of the table.  That is equivalent to pulling out a newspaper and reading it while someone is speaking/singing/presenting.  It’s rude.

Rule 8: Take your blue tooth device off while you are talking to someone in person.  The only reason you should have a device on your ear while others are in your presence is if your job requires you to say, “Would you like to supersize that?” or if you are giving an airplane pilot landing instructions.
Rule 9: If you have personalized ring tones, don’t use songs that are vulgar or profane.  One acquaintance told me about her phone going off during a wedding to the ring tone, “Highway to Hell.”

Rule 10: Don’t text and drive, even if it is legal, and don’t talk on the phone, text, or email when you are in a car with others, even if you are a passenger.  (See Rule 5.)

Rule 11:  Do I have to say it?  Turn your phone off or to quiet mode (not vibrate) when in church, class, meetings, public performances, etc.  I was in a meeting a few weeks ago and every few minutes someone’s phone started vibrating.  It continued for 30 seconds until voice mail picked up.  Everyone in the room could hear it and it was incredibly distracting.

This includes keeping your phone closed in a dark theater.  Nobody in the movie wants to see the glow from your iPhone, Blackberry or other device.  If it is important that you read a text during the movie, go to the lobby. 

Rule 12:  Finally, nobody around you wants to hear profanities, things about your personal life, your hemorrhoids, or your most recent sexual experience or break up.  Find a private place for these discussions.