There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new lows in etiquette we’re reaching with our cell phones. While I’m confident no MMD readers are going to get dragged away in handcuffs for felony-grade breaches of etiquette, now is a good time to review how to handle that cell phone with class.
Have Some Self-Discipline
The gadget is not the enemy: it’s just a tool, and you can choose whether or not to use it in any given moment.
Have Some Respect
It’s just a phone—but we send powerful messages with the way we use it. Our actions speak to our priorities, which is why your mom raises her eyebrow when you text during family dinner.
Have Some Empathy
Are you the one talking on that cell phone in the coffeeshop? Put yourself in the other patrons’ places for a sec: do you seem discreet, or loud and disruptive? If it’s the latter, take that conversation outside.
Are you the one listening to that loud woman on her cell phone in the coffee shop? Don’t automatically assume she’s clueless and rude. You’ve probably also taken a call at an inopportune time, and you probably had a good reason. Maybe she does, too.
I don’t love it when a friend leaves her phone out over coffee so she can see her new texts and emails. It makes me feel like the back-burner girl. But if my friend leaves her phone out so she doesn’t miss the doctor calling with test results, that’s fine by me.
Have Some Grace
Try not to jump to conclusions about people who are on their phones when you think they shouldn’t be. Yes, that dad is taking a call during his child’s ball game, but don’t assume he’s a workaholic jerk. If he wasn’t reachable by phone, he may not have been able to get out of the office to be there at all.
Have Some Perspective
You are not required to respond just because your phone rings/flashes/beeps. It’s (usually) okay to be unreachable. (I always ask myself, What if I was in the shower? I wouldn’t answer it then.)
And don’t be a vigilante etiquette-enforcer. Have some perspective: shooting cold stares at others because they’re being rude with their cell phones is—rude. Don’t do it!
Remember–that phone is just a tool. It’s up to you to use it well.
P.S. Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together tackles this and other tough issues about relationships and technology.