Untarnished etiquette: Proper cellphone use imperative
by Zeda Dowell
Aug 23, 2012 | 1179 views | 5 5 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

When we purchase cellphones, they come with a set of detailed instructions that direct us to all the benefits best suited for specific needs. What they do not come with are instructions in proper phone etiquette.

While there are advantages to using this technology, there are also disadvantages, not only for the user, but for the public in general.

Cellphone technology makes life easier and strongly influences our ability to become global. There is even a new cyber language, “netspeak,” for us to communicate with. Children can text their parents from their bedroom while the parents are in the kitchen. Face-to-face communication, once necessary, is being replaced. Cellphones also seem to invade every aspect of our lives.

There is a time and a place to use this form of communication. Yet I find myself often injected into someone else’s life just by being in a public place around someone actively involved in a cellphone conversation, not seeming to mind divulging private information to everyone within earshot.

We should be concerned that our private information could get into the hands of someone who might take advantage of it. It is best to speak in a private location and to avoid arguing or discussing personal and sensitive topics when you can be overheard.

For some reason, people think they need to speak louder on cellphones. Lower your voice when taking calls in public.

If you have been at an airport lately, you will find almost everyone talking or texting on a phone. I was flying out last week, the flight was overbooked and seated next to me was a young lady talking on her cellphone. During boarding, talking on a cellphone is perfectly acceptable, but there is a point when the flight attendant asks that all electronic devices be turned off. Apparently, this meant everyone except the girl seated next to me.

She continued her texting. The door of the aircraft closed, and the flight attendants started the seat belt check and head count. She still continued with her texting, ignoring the repeated request that all cellphones be turned off. Finally, the flight attendant told her the phone would be taken away; at that point she turned it off.

The reason they don't want you using personal electronics during takeoff and landing is that most personal electronics — even though they're shielded and not supposed to emit much — emit certain amounts of radio frequency interference.

While the RFI from one or two devices might not interfere, a lot of them could interfere with aircraft pilot-ground communications, which is critical during takeoff and landing, when the aircraft is most vulnerable. If there is an emergency, I, like you, want the pilot to have clear communication with the air traffic controller for emergency instructions.

The other truth is that most people are not interested in your life’s narrative; they have their own.

Avoid using a cellphone, or put it on silent mode, when you are in a theater, church or courthouse, at a wedding or funeral or in a restaurant.

Also, avoid texting or cell conversation when you are with someone face to face. If you find that it is important, then excuse yourself for a moment, walk someplace private and have a brief conversation. Also, apologize that you have to take the call.

When we continue a conversation on the cellphone while we are with another person, we are sending a message that they are less important than the conversation on the phone. 

Most importantly, no cellphones while driving. You endanger the lives of others; besides, it is the law.  Driving while using a cellphone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, according to Carnegie Mellon. In fact, distraction from cellphone use while driving — either hand-held or hands-free — slows a driver's reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to the University of Utah.

Cellphones are essential tools for our daily communications, but mobile phones do not replace our face-to-face conversations. Common sense and courtesy still are the unwritten code of etiquette.

- Zeda Dowell of Ben Lomond answers questions, teaches classes and provides information about international protocol, dining, being a gentleman and cultural diversity. Contact her at zedadowell@gmail.com.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
It's not the phone
August 26, 2012
The phone just reveals the true ignorance of humanity. We have far to go...and do not learn from our mistakes.
Lizzie Chen
August 24, 2012
What a timely article. I experienced this while having dinner at a restaurant this week. My friend and I each brought our children. The teens could not keep their hands off their smartphones. Even after being seriously berated that the phones were to be put away. It's almost like an addiction, it seems.

Try Parenting
August 26, 2012
Has it now occurred to simply take the phone away. Why would you pay for a phone so your children can use it to annoy you? Don't give them a phone unitl they have a job and can afford to pay the bill.
Carl Junior
August 26, 2012
How do you know she doesn't?
August 26, 2012
"Even after being seriously berated that the phones were to be put away. It's almost like an addiction, it seems."

Indicates that it's an ongoing issue...it is really simple. No phone use in the presence of others or you loose it, done.

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at pbeditor@pressbanner.com.