Thursday, July 07, 2005

cell phone etiquette

After reading about the explosions in London, I was intrigued by a NY Times article about Cell Phone Etiquette. The article is generally well-written, and addresses workplaces as the new battleground over what is and isn't appropriate use of a cell phone. I found it shocking the number of places people were willing to take calls - during meetings, while being treated at a doctor's office, while lecturing a class or leading a seminar. I agree that there are borderline situations, like driving in a car, or waiting for a table at a restaurant, but it seems to me these are situations where it is blatantly rude to ignore the immediate context for a phone call - isn't that why they come with voicemail?

I've avoided having a cell phone so far, mainly because of the expense, and free access to landlines most of the time. There have been times, though, that a cell phone would have been useful. Cell phones make it easier to contact people when you're en route to see them, going to be a little late, or even when you just have a few moments in between activities. They make it easier to check messages when it is convenient, and eliminate the need to take messages for others on a shared landline - a sometimes difficult responsibility. I appreciate the accessibility that cell phones give my often-transient friends.

But I wish people would be more responsible in their cell-phone use. I wish people would remember to turn their phones off at inapropriate times (I'm reminded of Kent's suggestion at the passport worship service that we all prepare ourselves for the cell phone that will inevitably go off. One did). It seems that there are a lot of times when the person in front of you should take priority over the person calling. As I look ahead one month I realize I'll have to turn my own aversion to poor cell etiquette into personal fastidiousness when I purchase my first cell phone plan. I'm still hashing out what is and isn't acceptable behavior. I know that nextel 2-way is almost always the most obnoxious thing I have ever heard, and answering a cell in class (especially one you are teaching) is almost never apropriate. Perhaps my readers (and maybe my callers) can help me determine what is and isn't good use of a new media.

7 comments:

Bob K said...

I agree wholeheartedly. This is one of those clear situations where technology has pulled ahead of manners and we haven't found a generally cultural accepted sense of when and where to answer the phone.

It doesn't have to be a cell phone - it can be a phone in your home or office too. We seem to think that a person calling gets priority. Before the era of voicemail and answering machines this was more problematic but now it is not. I try to have the person in my office get priority over the phone but at home I haven't figured out yet how to balance that.

taliendo said...

I for one, loathe the invention. I know that they are good for accessability (as in, for older children so that their parents can get a hold of them) and for emergency situations, but other than that I can find little good in them. Unfortunately, my views on this particular technology is not shared by the general public. I'm afraid cell phones are here to stay.

Anonymous said...

I say you should mostly have your cell phone off or silent. Don't use it when you are in (or could be in) conversation with someone who's actually there (mostly). Of course, if you and someone else decide that you should make a call to ask them something that both of you want to know, like directions, that's fine. Or if your friend Sarah calls - answer your phone. There is no situation in which it would be rude to talk to her on a cell phone.

Anonymous said...

I say you should mostly have your cell phone off or silent. Don't use it when you are in (or could be in) conversation with someone who's actually there (mostly). Of course, if you and someone else decide that you should make a call to ask them something that both of you want to know, like directions, that's fine. Or if your friend Sarah calls - answer your phone. There is no situation in which it would be rude to talk to her on a cell phone.

Anonymous said...

oops - didn't mean to enter that twice

Anonymous said...

I can see your point. I am one of those people who is attached to my cell phone, mainly because my boyfriend and I chose not to pay for a landline in our apartment. I tend to keep mine of vibrate and rarely answer it if I'm not at home. However, ALL the women in my office take personal calls, so I've found myself slipping into that. I try to leave a store or restaurant when my phone rings. And, as a rather annoying but correct guy pointed out on the El the other night "anyone who has conversations on their cell phone loud enough to hear on public transportation deserves to be made fun of". It was funny :)

-Kirsten

citystreams said...

mine has a vibrate before ringing feature which is very helpful when i forget to turn it off. then i can catch it before it disturbs the class and forward the caller to voice-mail. it's really annoying though when a professor doesn't turn their phone off. even if it's on silent the vibrations are picked up by the microphone and the whole class has to wait for it to stop ringing. i'm sure you won't do that though bethany ;o)