Polls: Cell Phone Cognizance

by epi on December 1, 2012

With cell phones quickly becoming people's lifelines, when is acceptable use?

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Please feel free to expand on this poll in the comments section below.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

polite punk December 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I question what we consider “cell phone” use. Do we consider it just actually talking on the phone? What about texting? Or using a smart phone for other purposes? I would argue that there are varying levels of acceptable use for each of them.

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Jody December 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

In response to Polite Punk’s comment, I consider texting as part of cell phone use.

As far as the poll goes, I clicked one answer but it was hard to decide between two of the choices offered. Cell phones (yes, including texting and smart phones) should be put down for meals and meetings. If you’re out on a date, whether it’s at a movie, a dinner, or something else, put the cell phone away. If you’re in class, put the cell phone away. Especially if you’re at a concert, put the cell phone away.

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Jerry December 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Jody is correct that EPI could have written the question better, and her answer gets to the root of the issue with cell phones in contemporary society.

I would go further and say that cell phones, especially using the phone for texting, tweeting, or Facebooking should be put away for meals, meetings, dates, movies, class, and concerts. A phone call could be an attempt to notify someone of an emergency, and one can excuse for long enough to ensure that the call from mom or the babysitter isn’t an attempt to convey critical information.

(Quick story — my friend was out on a date with a woman who, for whatever reason, kept interrupting their conversation to send real-time text updates to her best friend. So my friend excused himself half way through dinner, paid for the meal, and left. Girl was stunned. And he and I found it stunning that she was stunned.)

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Elizabeth December 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I think your friend skipped an important step, which was to ask the woman to put the phone away. I would be baffled too if someone got annoyed at something I did, but didn’t express it in any way and just left a date without bringing it up or asking for a modification. The problem is that the woman’s behavior lies in a gray area. Cell phones are still relatively new, and etiquette around them is just now becoming codified. Hence, the poll here on EPI. We would probably all agree that what the woman did was pretty rude, but her date’s behavior was beyond the pale. I’d say she dodged a bullet – a man who doesn’t communicate and just assumes that everyone else will behave according to his own rules.

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Jerry December 3, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Interesting perspective. In your world (and this is a serious question), is there a difference between (a) going on a date and texting back and forth for the majority (and I do mean the majority) of the evening, and (b) going to a baseball game and talking with the guy next to you as opposed to your date all night long?

I would argue that the woman has made her choice — she thought her phone was more interesting that her date. Nothing wrong with that. I would argue, though that he was the real winner here — a woman who assumes that the world revolves around her is not someone you want to take home for more than an evening. And then, only if she is absolutely gorgeous and you have caller id.

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Elizabeth December 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Well, the difference is that of talking to a stranger vs a friend, and a man vs a woman (assuming the best friend is a woman). I agree the woman was no peach in this scenario either, but there are steps one should take before the ‘nuclear’ option of walking out without addressing the problem. When someone is doing something you don’t like, it’s not that hard to ask, once, politely, if they will stop. Perhaps the woman would have apologized and put it away. Perhaps the best friend was having a crisis. Perhaps the woman was having a lot of anxiety about the date and coping with it through the texting. Perhaps she is a self-absorbed twit. She did not conduct herself well, but neither did he in the end.

Jerry December 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Another interesting perspective. It seems to me, though, that when you’re out on a date, your attention should be primarily on your date, not on your phone (that you’re using to communicate with a person, Alicia), not on a stranger — male or female — who’s enjoying the same social activity, and not on the television in the background (even if it’s the playoffs and your favorite team is playing). The whole purpose of the date is to spend time with the other person. And if one party to the date kept paying attention to someone or something else, the other party is right to take that as a clue that the date is going horribly wrong.

I can think of no legitimate crisis that would require significant texting. (Maybe one exchange, but not throughout the evening — we gave up group dates in middle school.) And if someone is having so much date anxiety that she needs to continue to text her friend to deal with the stress, she should remove herself from the dating pool while she seeks therapy. And if she’s a self-absorbed twit (and it sounds like she was based on all of the information available to me) . . . lesson learned.

Asking your date to put the cell phone away? Serious question: how do you get around the rule that it is rude to correct rudeness in others? Because asking someone to pay attention to you is not something that adults normally do.

(Also, as an addendum to my last post, of the 71 votes in the EPI poll, only one person said that it is ok to use the phone all the time. Now the EPI poll isn’t scientific by any means, but it does suggest that cell phone etiquette is not as poorly developed as some have suggested.)

Elizabeth December 4, 2012 at 10:14 am

You can ask someone to do something without explicitly telling them (or even implying) that they are being rude. For instance, “I was hoping that we could get to know each other a bit this evening, but the texting is really distracting me from the conversation. Would you mind putting your phone away for a while?” Or, “I’m sure your best friend is great, but I was just hoping for a one-on-one conversation this evening.” (smile)

jordi June 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm

I think your friends response was brilliant! I wonder how long it was before she realized he has left!!

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Alicia December 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Honestly both people on the date seem to have missed a cue in my opinion. Guy should have spoken up and said ” Hey is something wrong you seem to be on the phone texting constantly if this is not good time for you we can leave” Leaving her alone at resturant thinking he was coming back was unkind. Gal should have not texted or maybe one quite update if the guy went to the bathroom and she was at the table alone. Failing to pull away from phone was unkind.

In my opinion the difference between A and B Jerry situation is that in B it is a person who is occupying attention not a device. Interrupting a conversation with a device is fine interrupting a conversation with a person can be alkward or rude.

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Chocobo December 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I think the answer is to be present with the people you are with. If you are alone, there is no reason why you can’t use a cell phone. But if you are with other people, using a cell phone is not appropriate as it indicates that you are more interested in something else than the person in front of you. It’s rude, as rude as ignoring them altogether or reading a book in front of them while you are supposed to be on a social outing. Replace “checking my phone” with “looking at my watch” or “reading a book” when thinking about whether cell phone use is appropriate, and it becomes pretty clear.

I don’t blame Jerry’s friend. I only hope he announced that he was leaving and didn’t sneak out on the date.

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jordi June 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I just found this website and came across this topic; one of my pet peeves.

While I am a regular cell phone user; as a retail worker I have witnessed some of the most incredibly rude behavior and have been on the verge of blowing my stack many times.

People will constantly ask for your assistance and then answer their phone; come to pay for something and totally ignore you in favour of continuing their high volume conversations and appear to be having conversations with themselves while wearing ear buds. I’ve seen parents completely ignore their small children while they shop together and people conduct business and trash talk co-workers. One man even opened his portfolio on top of one of our glass cabinets to continue his business.

One woman in particular left me infuriated when she told me to be quiet because she was on the phone and I had interrupted her; I could not see her ear bud under her long hair and she was listening to someone at the other end when I spoke to her.

I have tried various methods to letting people know that I do not like to conduct business with people who are either ignorant and/or completely ignoring me. Staring doesn’t work; speaking at an equally high volume doesn’t work; standing at cash and not continuing the transaction until they have hung up or excused themselves from the conversation has limited results. One of my favourites is to comment to a co-worker about what the person is talking about. For instance; I might say to a co-worker that this lady’s friends husband didn’t buy her anything for their anniversary and she is mad at him or did you know that this guy has an offer in on a house in the area. Every once in a while they might tune in and realize what is going on but not often.

Only once in 10 years of retail did a person excuse themselves to leave the store to take a call!

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Just Laura December 4, 2012 at 1:25 am

I was told on a date one time that I was being rude with my cell phone usage (date was from Staten Island, and it wasn’t our first date, for those who are curious). What was I doing? When he left to use the restroom or grab more drinks, I would use that time to check my phone and return texts, if any warranted it. He felt that I was being sneaky, and that I was embarrassing him because other people around us might see me do it and think I was doing something behind his back.

As you might imagine, we are no longer together.

One of my girlfriends says that she texts while on dates because she likes to get updates on her little boy from the babysitter (boy is 3). One of her dates was upset by how much she checked her phone. I don’t have children, so I can’t relate, but I suggested that perhaps she put her phone away at those times, but keep the ringer on vibrate so she’ll know if there’s an emergency.

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Country Girl December 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm

All very interesting perspectives…

I think the most important err in etiquette, and reason why most people see phone usage as sneaky or rude stems from your date or conversation partner being left out of the loop to wonder what (or who) is more important then they in that particular moment. If one is simply chatting up others instead of being present, then yes they are being rude and should instead politely excuse them self from a date they clearly find so uninteresting instead of wasting the other’s time. If one does have another reason for using the phone, a quick fix would be to say upfront “I’d like to apologize in advance for needing to check my phone periodically, my son is with a new sitter tonight.” or the like.

As for your date Laura, I’m very glad to hear you did not end up with someone with such obvious self esteem issues. Yikes!

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Jerry December 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Yes! (EPI, you need to add a “Like” button.)

It’s akin to speaking to someone in another language when there are monolinguals present!

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