Friday, January 14, 2011

A Plea to Be Polite

What did we do before cell phones? 

We TALKED to each other when we were out to dinner. We gave our guests and dinner dates our full attention. We paid attention to the moment and sometimes we even embraced and enjoyed it. We weren't interrupted, except to order another beer or to entertain a brilliant idea. We didn't feel the need to alert the world to every stupid little thing that happened in our everyday life. We "networked" at appropriate times & places and in person. We engaged each other. On a personal, two-sided level.

Call me old fashioned, but this cell phone & portable internet thing has gotten out of hand. How did we become so addicted and attached to these little objects? We lived for centuries without them and now we can't even leave them in our pocket or purse for one hour during dinner. 

In my perfect-world mind, this is a growing problem. We aren't using our brains anymore, we rely on machines to think and to remember for us. We whip out our iPhones and Droids when we can't remember the name of that movie with so-and-so in it. Our brains are dying slowly and not just from using them less and less, the radiation from our cell phones is doing damage as well... but all that is another topic (and one I've been mulling for years- stay tuned).

This article from WiseGeek sums cell phone ettiquette up best- I've salvaged, modernized and added my own notes and rules to it below (in italics).
1. When a Private Conversation Isn't Possible. Intimate public settings such as restaurants, public restrooms, waiting rooms, check-out lines, hallways, buses, subways or anywhere a private conversation is not possible is a bad place for a cell phone conversation. To practice good cell phone etiquette, put the ringer on vibrate or silent mode and let the call roll over to voice mail. If it's an important call, step outside or to a secluded area to return the call. If that's not possible and you must take the call, keep your voice low and the conversation brief. Let the caller know you'll get back to them when you're able. When in doubt, mute!
2. Lights Out, Phone Off. Phones should be turned off in movie theaters, playhouses, observatories or any other public place that creates an atmosphere to transport the imagination of the audience. People pay good money to be entertained and a ringer breaks the illusion. Be aware of your surroundings. Once, a man answered his phone in the middle of a movie after letting it ring about 8 times. Not one person in that theater was pleased with that man. Don't be that man.
3. Modulate Your Voice (and the volume of your ringer). Cell phones have sensitive microphones that can pick up a very soft voice while blocking out ambient noise. Yelling into a cell phone is not necessary. When people are nearby, be considerate and keep your voice low, your tone unemotional and even, and your conversation private. Arguing or airing dirty laundry in public is very poor cell phone etiquette. And it's not necessary for everyone in the entire grocery store to know when someone's calling you. Again, be aware of your surroundings.
4. Observe the 10-foot Proximity Rule. Maintain a distance of at least 10-feet (3 meters) from the nearest person when talking on a cell phone. No matter how quietly you speak, if standing too close to others they are forced to overhear your personal business. I've not heard of this 10-foot rule before, but I like it.
5. Keep It Short. If you MUST talk in a public place (in emergencies or to tell your caller that you'll call them back later), keep public conversations brief and get back to the caller when you're not in a public place.
6. Love the One You're With. It's rude to take a cell phone call or text or surf on a date or during a social engagement with others. It's also inconsiderate to take a call in the middle of a conversation. If the caller were present he or she would likely wait to politely interrupt at a more appropriate time. Let the call roll to voice mail and return it later. This is one of my pet peeves. See the words above- it's RUDE! R-U-D-E. Personally, I feel ignored and disrespected when people I'm with are constantly on their phones either texting or surfing. The call or text may be important to you, but realize you're also important to the person in front of or next to you. If I wanted to go out to dinner by myself, I would have done so. Don't talk on your cell phone, play games or send text messages in front of someone who expects your attention.
7. Drive Now, Talk (, text & surf) Later. Multitasking isn't always a good thing. Some evidence shows that accidents are on the rise due to cell phone use. Pull over or wait until you get to your destination to have the conversation. Duh!

8. Use Common Sense. Turn off your phone before a job interview, presentation, or boardroom meeting. Leave it off at funerals, weddings, or anyplace a quiet atmosphere is mandated, such as a courthouse, library, museum, or place of worship. And don't use your phone when you're ordering at a counter or checking out at a retail/food establishment. They're sure to spit in your food or give you the stink eye
Of course, in all situations above, the exception is emergencies. I also don't mind if I've been warned by the person I'm about to meet up with that they're expecting a call, especially if it's an important one. Annoyance averted.

This is an excerpt from a great article from Road & Travel Magazine, it adds some logic to the argument:
Keep in mind, the more available you make yourself the more available everyone will expect you to be. People will actually be miffed if you are not instantly and constantly available rather than being pleased when you do call. Think: Do you really need to be - or want to be - "connected" 24/7/365? And ask: what's it doing for that tension across your upper back? If you can summon the discipline to be unavailable at certain times - and even for uncertain lengths of time - it's doubtful much will change, except your peace of mind.

First, think of your phone as a tool for emergencies. If it's important, they'll call back and that question they just asked you by text- they will be just fine without an answer for the next hour.

Second, think of your phone as a portable answering machine. It takes messages when you are not available. Now that's convenient.
 Your dinner date would be oh-so-happy.

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At 9:46 PM, January 18, 2011, Blogger heidi said...

I really think you should write a book: Modern Day Etiquette. I would buy it!


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