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? [Keystone (Beer) did a funny commercial of this a few years back that still makes the rounds on TV today.] Cell phone are ubiquitous these days. In a 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 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 article from CNN dating back to 2003 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 article from Gizmodo 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 2011 survey conducted by Intel 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’ (here, here, and here), I’m going to say that there is probably a little bit of holier-than-thou 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 Social Science Research Solutions 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 8 simple steps for cell phone etiquette) that talks about people being so fed up with fellow cell phone users that they have turned to illegal means 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 magicJack has allowed me 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.