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Please. In the Interest of Sanity: There Is Such a Thing as Cell Phone Etiquette

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Photo: DESHOOTS

Walk into an average room and ask 10 people which of them has their cell phones on them, and my bet is at least 9 hands shoot up.

That is, if they hear the question at all while their thumbing away at their text messages.

For better or worse, this is the highly connected society we now live in.

And although we complain (People have lost their social skills! Kids get unhealthy amounts of screen time!), let’s be honest, we’re not really complaining.

We LOVE our gadgets.

We love the convenience of being able to not only find a recipe, but watch someone cook the recipe right in front of us. We like that a soothing robot voice tells us how many rights and lefts will take us to an unfamiliar destination, and even redirects us when our directionally impaired selves veer off course. We like being able to google the name of that one song or that one actor that is on the tip of our brain.

Oh and we reallly like being able to text someone instead of getting locked into hour long conversations. 

And on a more responsible note, we also enjoy the comfort of being able to track down our wandering children at all hours of the night as well as the security of being able to access emergency services from wherever our two feet take us.

Summary? Cell phones are going nowhere.

But who are we kidding? Despite their fabulousness, these near-magical hand held devices have clearly created a never-ending pile of social behaviors that range from annoying to dangerous as well.

A group of pre-teens is blasting a viral video in the doctor’s office while we have a pounding migraine? Frustrating.

Some joker with a fourth-grade education is texting while driving a semi…in the rain? Deadly.

So if the whole developing world could just hit pause for a second and agree to some common sense behaviors like the ones below, we might have a chance of getting things collectively under…well, partial control.

The Cell Phone Etiquette You Wish Everyone Had

  • Pick a ring tone that won’t send people into eye-rolling convulsions when you’re in public. If you are on a ѕubwау or wаіtіng fоr a bus, people аrоund уоu mау not wаnt tо hеаr your Taylor Swift anthem еvеrу fіvе mіnutеѕ as you are tаkіng іnсоmіng саllѕ. There’s this miraculous option that could bring peace to who knows how many countries: thе Vіbrаtе Onlу ѕеttіng. Find it and do your part in bringing about world peace.
  • Don’t activate that weird, looping, half-techno-half-classical call-waiting music some phones let callers listen to while they wait to be connected. You are a normal person, not a corporate call center.
  • Don’t let the paranoia over missing out prevent you from pushing the off button. Whіlе hospitals аnd аіrрlаnеѕ аrе рlасеѕ thаt rеԛuіrе you tо do thіѕ, уоu mау also wаnt shut it down іn thе thеаtеr, library, school, church, sporting events, or…here’s a thought…when you just need a few seconds to be human. A free human who doesn’t have to jump anytime anyone who acquires your number makes that tiny device beep.
  •  Adopt an emergency only interruption policy. If you get an *important* call while out with your соllеаguеѕ from wоrk оr a grоuр оf сlоѕе friends, you may be able to pick it up if you dramatically over-apologize about how you have to take this someone’s-life-is-on-the-line-and-I’m-the-only-one-who-can-save-them call. If you do that, excuse yourself from the table and take the call in a quiet corner where you won’t be infringing on other people’s conversation space. Even loud-talking heroes are annoying.
  • But make a vow to snub your phone instead of the people you’re with. In most cases, it’s best to think of your phone as a tool to connect to people you care about in between the times when you’re with them. Because here’s The Thing, friends: When you’re with them, live and in person, you’ve **topped the phone**. You can see them in person, reach out and touch them, swim in their tone of voice and facial expressions without any bar-drops or dead-zones crashing your conversation. Why would you pull out the phone in their presence then? The answer? Pretty much only if you deem the text message from the person on the phone to be more important than the human being sitting in front of you.
  • In case you didn’t read between the lines on that last part, prioritizing in-person friends below someone on the phone makes you an award-winning jerk. Who are you that you need to shuffle your social circles to that extent in every waking minute? Perez Hilton? Okay you and only you, the real Perez Hilton, can do that. Everyone else? Just no.
  • If you’re going to slow down the line, don’t get in the line at all. There are few more purgatory-like shopping experiences than being trapped in a slow-moving grocery or retail checkout line. Only a minion of Evil would make an already impatient person wait even longer just so they can hone in on their bff call and finish the super-important-sentence-about-that-one-girl-who-had-some-nerve all the while asking the cashier to “hold on”. In some countries, you could lose a hand or two for that kind of nonsense.
  • Anyone who has a phone out during a wеddіng ceremony оr a funеrаl service is THAT guy. It’s automatic. Pull the phone out? You ARE the socially oblivious sitcom character who everyone judges from that point on until eternity. When it doubt, power down.
  • Respect the caller’s experience. Putting a caller on speaker phone is the equivalent of pausing a face to face conversation so you can turn on some radio static to listen to in the background. It’s completely illogical (unless, you have to talk to them right this second, oh Important Person of Earth, and you know, you’re driving or performing surgery or something). Also, while we’re on this note, here’s a short list of things people never want to hear: you talking at the drive thru window of a fast food restaurant, your toilet flushing, or your family or friends arguing in the background. Save us all. Call back later.

Thank you, people of earth, for doing your part to make the world a better place. 😉

Photo Credit: A.Patterson