In July 2002, author and international etiquette expert, Jacqueline Whitmore, founded National Cell Phone Courtesy Month. Sixteen years later, it is still being celebrated, although not backed by any national body like the U.S. Congress. According to Whitmore, the intent is to encourage the increasingly unmindful corps of cell phone users to be more respectful of their surroundings by using some simple cell phone etiquette principles. In other words, practice cell phone manners. As the use of cell phones continue to spread rapidly, there’s an urgent need for users to learn and practice simple phone etiquette.
Do you, or anyone you know, answer a ringing cell phone, check and reply to text messages, or read emails during meetings? Whether it’s a formal or informal meeting, this is strongly discouraged, unless the call, text, or email relate to the meeting, or some other very important event.
Recommendation: Inconspicuously excuse yourself and find a secluded area without disturbing others. If the interruption is a phone call, you can choose to send the call to voicemail and retrieve the message afterwards.
Perception: Answering phone calls or replying to emails during a meeting could convey a lack of respect for the attendees. It could also display a lack of focus and commitment.
Social gathering courtesy
Imagine you are enjoying a delicious meal with a group of friends and/or family, when suddenly a cell phone rings; or, during a nice, casual post-meal conversion, one of the participants suddenly retrieves their phone and starts texting away; or, you are at the movies, fully engrossed in the film, when an unexpected, loud, never-ending phone conversation breaks out directly around you. None of these scenarios are particularly pleasant.
Recommendation: Refrain from bringing phones to these events. But, the odds of this happening are slim to none. So, the more realistic solution would be to make sure all phones are on vibrate, preferably silent, and stored until the event is over. Since cell phone cameras are now the chosen way to preserve memories and share photos on social media, take your pictures then put the phone away. You can post your pictures on Facebook, Twitter,and Instagram later.
Perception: Your inability to separate yourself from your phone throughout the event could covey boredom and disconnection, leaving others to think you would rather be someplace else.
Public transportation courtesy
If any action accentuates the need for cell phone etiquette it’s cell phone usage on public transportation. Consideration should be given to passengers who prefer a more relaxing approach on the bus or train, like reading a newspaper, a magazine, surfing the web, or even sneaking in a quick nap. With some passengers communicating via earpieces and even through the use of the speaker, the surroundings can become loud and chaotic.
Recommendation: Leave phones on vibrate or silent, and limit calls to emergencies only. This recommendation is a little arduous, considering that various studies have shown that cell phone users overwhelmingly believe phone usage on public transportation should is permissible.
Perception: Your inability to recognize that your phone behavior is affecting those around you signals a lack of respect, and could have terrible consequences. Not everyone reacts kindly when their relaxation and alone time is interrupted, especially by a perceived ill-mannered cell phone user.
The intent of National Cell Phone Courtesy Month is not to discourage cell phone usage, but to bring awareness to the need for good phone etiquette. Remember, the cell phone is not the problem; it’s the lack of respect shown by users. July is a perfect time to start practicing good cell phone manners and by year’s end you could become good at it.
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