What is proper cell phone etiquette?
CELL PHONE USAGE
Are you tired of people talking on their cell phones and driving dangerously on the roads? Does it anger you to see people texting as they are driving? How about texting while in the middle of a conversation with you? Have you ever been in the grocery store and been close to a stranger who seems to approach you and say, very loudly, "Hey how's it going" and then subsequently realized that they had a Bluetooth headset on and were talking to the person on the other line and not you? These are some of the reasons why it is important for us to be ever cognizant of proper cell phone etiquette.
What Is Cell Phone Etiquette?
For the benefit of everyone, we would do well to define the term "cell phone etiquette." Etiquette, according to Merriam Webster's online dictionary, is defined as:
The conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be observed in social or official life.
Now, let's apply that to cell phone usage. Cell phone etiquette can be defined as proper cell phone usage in social and business settings. It is knowing when to take calls, when to ignore calls, when to silence your ringer, when to appropriately send and receive text messages and how to appropriately use your cell phone in different settings.
Cell Phone Etiquette While Driving
It has become a common place in today's age: driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time. It is a way to break the silence, to be productive, to socialize. And yet, more and more studies show that driving and talking on the cell phone decreases speed, sometimes invokes road rage in other motorists and serves as a distraction to the operator of the vehicle. Text messaging is even more dangerous and certain states are currently passing legislation to make it illegal. So then what is proper cell phone etiquette while driving?
I would like to argue that it is not appropriate to drive and talk on the cell phone regularly. There comes a time when it is perfectly acceptable to simply ignore calls. Instead, we typically choose to "err on the side of caution" and pick up the phone thinking, "Well, it could be an emergency" or, "I had better get that." Do we really have to answer the phone? We need to honestly evaluate whether or not it is appropriate to answer phone calls while driving.
There are several reasons why we need to screen phone calls while driving. Here is a short list of questions to consider when receiving calls on the road:
- What social ramifications will there be, if any? If our partner/child/friend is in the car, will it be seen as rude to answer the call and ignore them? This is especially important if we're in the middle of a conversation with them. How do you like it when you're talking to someone and they say, "excuse me I need to get that!"?
- What is the traffic like? If there's no one on the road, it might be more acceptable to pick up the call then if we're in rush hour. Studies, such as the ones below consistently demonstrate that driving and talking on the cell phone is dangerous. We really need to evaluate if it is completely necessary to answer a call when in traffic.
- What other distractions are there in the car? Adding a cell phone call to the other list of distractions while driving only compounds the risk factor. If the radio is on, there are friends talking in the backseat, and you're smoking, adding a phone call becomes a serious hazard.
- What are the conditions outside? Is visibility diluted from lack of sunlight/fog/etc? Furthermore, it takes a few seconds to adjust our eyesight when switching from looking at the road when it's dark outside and then looking at our cell phone to see who's calling. This, too, becomes a serious hazard.
- Do we honestly assess whether or not the call is of vital importance? For me, I'll always pick up a call from my wife. That's just a rule of thumb. If it's a co-worker, friend, and even my boss calling, I typically don't pick up while in the car. We should consider whether or not the call is important enough to pick up based on who is calling.
Driving while texting
Driving while texting is considerably more dangerous than driving while talking on the phone. There are several states that have already outlawed driving and texting. In fact, Washington, New Jersey and the City of Phoenix have all outlawed texting while driving and many other states are following suit.
Texting takes our direct eyesight off of the road (see picture to the right). Even if the keypad is memorized, it is inevitable that our eyes will shift from the road to the cell phone screen. When we read a text, orient our fingers on the pad or type away, our eyes easily leave the road and put is into a higher level of danger. Proper cell phone etiquette means we completely avoid texting while driving.
Cell Phone Etiquette in the Workplace
Cell phones have become more common in the workplace. Many people even have two or three cell phones on them- one for personal use, one for work use and one for emergency contact from the boss. It is becoming increasingly difficult to determine when it's appropriate to answer cell phone calls while at work due to the number of cell phones and the sense of urgency our jobs typically encourage.
Typically, bosses don't like to see us taking what are seen as "personal calls" while at work. The same is true of texting. This is especially true for hourly workers. If we take personal calls or texts while "on the clock," we are usually breaking the rules set forth in the employer's handbook. It's safe to say that using the cell phone for personal reasons while at work is a social taboo and should be avoided whenever possible.
Taking work-related calls, however, is typically acceptable in the workplace. Careful consideration should be taken when determining whether or not to pick up these types of calls at work. More will be mentioned on this later, but for now suffice it to say that we should not answer calls while in the middle of talking with our boss.
Cell Phone Etiquette in Life
There are general rules for proper cell phone etiquette in public places that we, as responsible cell phone users, should follow. Two good rules of thumb for using our cell phones in public places are to 1. always keep others in mind and 2. remember our objective.
Always keep others in mind
Whether we're walking down a crowded street, shopping in the grocery store or at the airport, we need to keep others in mind when using our cell phones. Going back to the example in the first paragraph of this hub, it is pretty embarrassing when I'm shopping and I see someone approach me and ask, "Hey, how have you been?" I usually begin to answer them, only to realize that they had a headset on and were talking to someone on the phone! We should strive to be considerate of others around us.
Remember our objective
What do you go into a restaurant to do? Order food, right? Then why do we attempt to multi-task juggling a phone call and giving a food order to a waitress? Not only does it demonstrate rudeness to the waitress (and our company at the table!), but it also is forgetful of our objective. If we're going through a drive-thru we should focus on placing an order only. You wouldn't pick up a personal phone call in a conference meeting with bosses, would you? Neither should we use our cell phones when we should be eating, talking with others, on vacation, etc!
Final Cell Phone Etiquette Rules To Abide By
Here are some final rules to abide by when attempting to be a responsible cell phone user:
- Silence cell phones in places you wouldn't want to receive a call. Job interviews, movie theatres, weddings, church services, conference meetings, business sales pitches, classrooms, (and the list goes on) are all places that our cell phones should be silenced.
- Always keep others in mind. What would be better- having a phone discussion with a co-worker about a prior successful marketing scheme or talking with your daughter about her day at school? Would you rather be texting friends who are away or talking with friends who are right in front of you?
- Screen your calls. Be honest with yourself. Do you really have to take the call or can you simply let it go to voicemail?
- Strive to not use the cell phone while driving. Many studies show that cell phones, whether used for texting or calling, are a major distraction to drivers and lead to more accidents. Rather than trying to make excuses to use the cell phone, turn it off and put on a good cd! Try listening to soothing music to de-stress yourself before making it home, learn a new language on cd or listen to a book on tape.
As we all attempt to be more accountable cell phone users, we would do well to abide by these rules. Keep in mind these rules aren't all-inclusive. What else should we do, as a culture, to be responsible cell phone users? And why do we, as Americans, feel such a deep need to use our cell phones so frequently? We would do well to think about these things.