Cell Phone Etiquette: Necessary Evil vs. “Old-Fashioned” Manners

Have you ever been out to dinner with people when suddenly you hear the (vibration) of a cell phone and then one of the people has their head buried in their phone? How about walking down the street and hearing someone talking to what looks like thin air? Or what about in the grocery store, seeing someone carrying on a conversation while deciding which box of breakfast bran to select? [] Cell phone are ubiquitous these days. In a , researchers polled over 3000 adults 18 or older and found that 85% owned a cell phone.

We know that cell phones aren’t going away anytime soon, especially because 96% the demographic between 18-29 in the survey above indicated that they had a cell phone. In doing some digging for this post, I found an talking about cell phone etiquette. As the technology has advanced, so to have the ways in which we connect with our mobile phones. To keep up with the necessary niceties, there’s an talking about some of the ‘okay’ and not-so-okay times to check your phone.

You’d think that since this issue has been around since the inception of cell phones that we’d eventually kick some of the dirty cell phone habits. This seems not to be the case. In a who polled over 2000 US adults from a nationally representative sample:

75% of US adults say mobile manners are worse now than in 2009.

The scary part about that survey to me is that 20% of people admitted to these same ‘bad manners,’ but will continue doing so because “everyone else is doing it.” The first thing I notice about this is that something is not right with the numbers. If 20% of the people are admitting to bad cell phone behavior, but 75% of the same respondents are saying that the behavior has gotten worse since 2009, ‘something’s gotta give.’ Either people are lying about their bad behavior (or maybe they don’t think when they do it that it’s bad). Given the plethora of articles written across the web about the ‘lack of cell phone etiquette’ (, , and ), I’m going to say that there is probably a little bit of at play.

I can see the reasoning and logic behind those that would advocate using their phones in social situations. In fact, this article I Will Check My Phone At Dinner And You Will Deal With It” from TechCrunch published in February has stirred quite the debate among the commenters. Even the title is a little inciting and at first glance, one may pre-suppose an air of bravado from the author. After reading it, the author makes the argument that supplementing dinner conversation with interesting facts from Wikipedia enhance the conversation rather than hinder it. Many of the comments that I read that received (high regards from other readers) seem to disagree.

As a counterpoint to this article, there was a survey done by of over 1000 Americans about their cell phone use. When asked “What is your level of tolerance when you encounter… someone interrupting a conversation to take a call?” 37% of respondents answered that was “very annoying.” There’s another interesting article (which also has ) that talks about people being so fed up with fellow cell phone users that they have turned to to keep people off of their phone.

I haven’t owned a cell phone for the last couple of years in part because I’ve been on the move (Canada, USA, and New Zealand) and in part because to keep a Canadian/American number through my travels abroad (and still be initiating/receiving “local” calls to/from Canada and the US). However, I have a feeling that I’ll be re-acquiring a cell phone in the near future and when I do, you can be sure that you won’t often find me interrupting in-person conversations for something happening on my phone.

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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    1. I think you meant "wish" I still had one, right?

      Well, like I said, I'm sure I'll be reacquiring a cell phone in the near future. I might even need to go to a workshop on how to "use" said phone. The last phone I owned was a RAZR. It seems that blackberries and iPhones are a necessity these days. Hopefully the learning curve is not too steep!

      With Love and Gratitude,



  1. I think it is really rude when you are in a meeting and someone suddenly just answers there phone and you are sitting there like a plank waiting for them to get off the phone. More people should learn phone etiquette.


    1. Yes, it can be disheartening when someone answers their phone in the middle of a conversation. I can see where, at times, it would be appropriate to answer the phone [some sort of emergency], but I can also see where it wouldn't be appropriate [just a random phone call].

      With Love and Gratitude,



  2. I went out to Hong Kong for business and everyone thinks nothing of just answering their phones during meetings it is really off putting. I personally always put my phone on silent whenever I'm in a meeting it is just polite to me.


    1. While I agree that it is probably more appropriate to have one's phone off during a meeting, I have spoken with a number of people who are employed in agencies/businesses where it is the norm, standard, or part of the culture to be fiddling with one's smart phone during a meeting.

      I think that if someone has time to be on their phone during the meeting, then the meeting's agenda is probably not stringent enough (with regard to the members in attendance). Meaning, if people don't need to be in the meeting, why are they there?

      With Love and Gratitude,



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