Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cell Phone Etiquette

I really like my cell phone. I have a Samsung Gravity, which comes complete with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard. It makes texting really quick and easy. No more need for T9, or predictive text, it's just one letter per button.

Being a T-Mobile user, I also have the My Faves plan, unlimited calling to any five people, and I can change the numbers every month. It makes it handy to keep in touch with my closest friends. I can talk any time.

I would definitely say that living without a cell phone now would be hard. However, I didn't used to think so. I got my first phone two summers ago. Up until then I made the most out of living without one. I decided that it was nice to not always be reachable. If I went out, I was out and people couldn't bother me. I wouldn't feel compelled to answer my phone when I was out with friends and I wasn't constantly texting.

But now that I have a phone, cell phone etiquette is something I definitely think about. When is it okay to flip it open and jabber away, and when should I screen calls? There really isn't any standard that has been accepted across the board, so I decided to create my own standards of cell phone etiquette. These are based on personal experiences and generally good manners.

1) Never answer your cell phone when you're in a one-on-one situation (a date, appointment, or other organized outing). This includes lunch dates with friends or dinner dates with your significant other. If you're taking time out of your day to go out with someone, you shouldn't interrupt their time with you by talking on the phone to someone else. This just tells your friend that they're not the most important thing. Your cell phone's obnoxious ringtone and the caller on the line are more important.

When I'm out with a friend (who either I asked to hang out, or they invited me) and they answer their phone, I immediately feel unimportant. I sit their semi-awkwardly, waiting for them to stop talking. I usually feel the need to look busy so that I'm not just sitting there, watching them blab. So I pull out my phone and pretend to be doing something equally as urgent.

Unless it's an emergency, screen all calls while you're spending quality time with someone else. This will show the other person how valuable you are to them. Your callers can respect you for your commitment of time to your friends and can get a call back from you later... which they should screen if they're out. :)

2) Never have important conversations in a public place where strangers can hear you. No one wants to hear about your endoscopy or your recent break up. Extremely personal conversations should be saved for a private place. Talking about sensitive topics on a bus, at the bank, or at the grocery store can make those subjected to your candor feel uncomfortable.

It's good to plan to have important, private, and personal conversations in a place where you can be alone. If your best friend unexpectedly calls you, save the secrets until you can get to a place out of ear shot of others.

3) Never text or answer your phone in a movie theatre. This one should be a no-brainer, especially if you've been to a movie theatre recently and seen the signs or pre-flick commercials that tell you, "No texting!" However, it is still easy to unconsciously whip out your phone and start texting during the movie.

While it's usually not a loud activity, the light from your phone can shine up on the people behind you. It's distracting and annoying to see little lights shining during the most intense scene of your favorite sequel. Spare those around you and text when the movie is over. You can wait two hours.

4) Never text while driving. This is a safety issue more than anything else. Texting while driving is far worse than talking while driving. It's all too easy to look at the keys or read a text a little too long and before you know it, you've drifted over into the path of an oncoming car. No text message is worth risking your life or others. Be safe, don't text and drive.

* * * *

Those are the big four. The basic rule to remember is to have consideration of others. Sure, your callers and your need to communicate are important, but so are the people around you. Don't subject them to the tortures of your loud gabbing. And if they're important to you, don't ignore them for the random friend whose comments can wait until later.

If you're not sure if you're in a situation where it's safe to answer your phone, err on the side of caution and just don't answer. Voicemail is a wonderful tool that anyone can use. Let your callers use it and save your dignity and our ears.

Try to remember back to the days before cell phones were a common place (if you lived during that era). Remember how people used to function? When you said you were going to do something, you did it, without constant interruption. You got things done, spent time with people, and still had time to talk on the phone. People used to leave you a message if they couldn't reach you, knowing you would call back. Well, people can still leave messages, and you can still call back, it's that simple.

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