It’s been a while since the former Verizon spokesman asked, “Can you hear me now?” But when it comes to the ubiquitous use of cell phones in everyday society, we not only hear you now, we hear everyone else too—nearly everywhere we go. From concerts and movie theaters to restaurants, elevators, restrooms, waiting areas and nearly every place that a phone tower signal can reach, electronic interaction is at an all-time high. But just because we can talk to anyone at any time and at anyplace doesn’t necessarily mean we need to.
According to Pamela Eyring of The Protocol School of Washington, there are proper rules of etiquette we should consider when using our cell phones. “Cell phone use has made communication easier than ever,” says Eyring. “But ironically, cell phones can actually cause us to feel more disconnected than ever.” Eyring says that overuse of cell phones decreases face to face interaction causing us to miss out on more meaningful connections because so many people have their eyes glued to their “black mirror.” “In addition, cell phone usage in public spaces can ruin experiences for those around you and cause a lot of ill will.
When it comes to choosing places to use your cell phone, Eyring has a list of places that you should definitely skip:
Restaurants Using your phone while dining with someone else is rude. Plain and simple. Even having a phone on the table implies that your dining companion is not your top priority. And that means checking texts, too. And updating your Facebook page or taking a pic of your fabulous meal for the perfect Instagram post. To fully engage with your dining partner(s), put your phone in a jacket or your purse and keep it out of view. If your phone does ring, and it’s a matter of high importance, you should at least ask your dining partner if they mind if you take the call. Just asking shows you care. There are exceptions, of course. If you are waiting to answer an emergency call, you can inform your dining partner that you may have to take a call. Just be mindful in all accounts and keep the focus on the real-life humans in front of your face.
Waiting Rooms and Service Lines Medical waiting rooms are not a place to use your cell phone—unless it is absolutely necessary. Consider that your fellow patients may be going through deeply personal medical issues and that the waiting room should be calm, quiet and peaceful as possible. Hearing a stranger’s intimate conversations is not only annoying, it is a disruption. Again, if you must make a call, simply step outside into the hallway or try to text any message you feel is crucial to convey. When it comes to waiting in line at the post office or the DMV, we all know that boredom can set in. But typically, you are sharing space with a long line of impatient people and tempers can run hot. The last thing anyone waiting in a long line needs to hear is the minutiae of your everyday life. Again, it’s annoying and can cause friction and disgruntled feelings from people who simply want to get in and out of a line as quickly as possible.
Retail shops If you are shopping in a retail establishment, a loud cell phone conversation can ruin the ambience or store experience for your fellow shoppers. Often people need to concentrate on sizes, selection and simply enjoy the experience of retail therapy. A loud cell phone talker can disrupt that experience and also be a block to sales assistants who may want to help a shopper or inform them of a special sale.
Offices and Shared Workspaces Imagine you’re on a deadline for the boss trying to finish a big project but your coworker in the cubicle beside you is taking a personal call to argue with a spouse or child. It’s not only distracting but it limits productivity for everyone. Of course, we all need to be aware of work life balance and there are many times we all must take a personal call. But try to step away from a shared workspace and slip in an empty conference room or designated break room to conduct your personal business. Your coworkers—and boss—will thank you.
Public Performances, Films and Live Theater From the singer Alicia Keyes banning cell phones at her concerts to Broadway stars stepping out of character to berate a texting theatre patron, there is much disdain for cell phones from performance artists. Using a cell phone in a theatre, classroom setting or anywhere the focus should remain on the presenter shows extremely poor taste and a lack of respect for those on stage as well as those attending the show. A good rule of thumb is to immediately shut your phone off when you attend any kind of performance, speech or concert—and that means no texting and definitely no pics or calls.
Other places to avoid using your phone include:
- During a meeting
- Weddings and funerals
- Crossing or walking down a street
- In a public toilet
- At the counter or checkout
- Other cultural spaces like museums or art galleries
- Driving (and this means no texting, too!)