Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cell Phone Etiquette

By Joanna L. Krotz
I'm a New Yorker — born, bred and proud of it. So when I say it's time to dial down on all this rude and infernal yakking on mobile phones, you'll understand that it comes with a high tolerance for urban chatter and in-your-face attitude.
Loutish cell use is out of control. Mobile phones now ring at weddings and funerals, job interviews and surgical procedures. No event is immune.
During Broadway shows, it's not uncommon to hear the unmistakable ring tones of, say, the William Tell Overture going off. It got so bad a while back that the New York City Council actually had to pass a law, banning cell phone use during live performances and in museums. Violators risk a $50 fine. But, of course, that was just symbolic. Who could afford the time and resources to actually enforce it?
Everywhere I go, from avenues to airports, from elevators to the bank, from conference
rooms to restaurants, mobile addicts are blurting out steady streams of shocking and confidential revelations. Who needs to know all the intimate and creepy things we're now forced to overhear?
Mobile madness
Boorish cell use isn't limited to social venues, either. It's corrupting the most basic of business courtesies. Every executive has a "Can you beat this?" cell story. But Mary Westheimer, founder of, offers one totally over the top. At a Publishers Marketing Association conference, a panel member was presenting his part of the event. "His cell phone rang and he stopped his presentation and answered his phone!"
"People are defining new rules and new behavior for what's personal and what's private," says Robbie Blinkoff, principal anthropologist at Context-Based Research Group, a Baltimore marketer that relies on ethnographic fieldwork for insights into consumer behavior. "Technological change leads
to social change, but there's always a lag," he says.
Maybe. But manners aren't improving with increased use. About 72% of Americans agree that users' worst cell phone habit is having loud conversations in public, according to a recent national poll by market research group Synovate. Almost seven out of 10 (68%) said they observe poor cell phone etiquette at least once every day.
"I suspect the functionality and ease-of-use of these devices lead us to become lazy and to
lose awareness of ourselves, others and our surroundings," said Steve Levine at Synovate, when the study was released.
Cell phones aren't the issue
Let me be clear. I think mobile phones rank up there with the invention of the steam engine and ice cream. As we all know too well, mobiles can be critical in keeping us safe and connected. Technology and its myriad benefits are not the issue. People are.
Gartner Group predicts that one billion mobile phones will be sold worldwide in the year 2009. The decibel level is rising. So are transgressions and intrusions — and car accidents. At any given time, about 3% of people driving are simultaneously talking on their mobiles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which translates into millions of distracted drivers. Unnecessary mobile talk is increasingly fatal, even when carried on hands-free, according to the latest studies.
Perhaps it's time to turn serious about mobile manners.
Send a message
Technology and manners are compatible. For example, most Web users are up-to-speed on e-mail etiquette, even Gen Y teens, the poster kids for iPod culture. Wireless users must evolve. Sure, there are a handful of folks who must take calls no matter where, no matter what — say, heads of state or expectant fathers. But virtually everyone can turn on the vibrate option, depend on voice-mail messages or head for a secluded area before pressing "send."
If, as anthropologist Blinkoff promises, the mobile lifestyle is creating "a phantom sense of proximity," then we must hew to new dos and don'ts. Here's my 10-point plan.
1. Never take a personal mobile call during a business meeting. This includes interviews and meetings with co-workers or subordinates.
2. Maintain at least a 10-foot zone from anyone while talking.
3. Never talk in elevators, libraries, museums, restaurants, cemeteries, theaters, dentist or doctor waiting rooms, places of worship, auditoriums or other enclosed public spaces, such as hospital emergency rooms or buses. And don't have any emotional conversations in public — ever.
4. Don't use loud and annoying ring tones that destroy concentration and eardrums. Grow up!
5. Never "multi-task" by making calls while shopping, banking, waiting in line or conducting other personal business.
1. Keep all cellular congress brief and to the point.
2. Use an earpiece in high-traffic or noisy locations. That lets you hear the amplification, or how loud you sound at the other end, so you can modulate your voice.
3. Tell callers when you're talking on a mobile, so they can anticipate distractions or disconnections.
4. Demand "quiet zones" and "phone-free areas" at work and in public venues, like the quiet cars on the Amtrak Metroliner.
5. Inform everyone in your mobile address book that you've just adopted the new rules for mobile manners. Ask them to do likewise. Please.

The Ten Commandments of cell phone etiquette By Dan Briody
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12 Unwritten Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette Digital Media Wire
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