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On Cell Phone Etiquette



By:  Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D.

Fort Fairfield Journal, September 14, 2016



  One of those pressing courtesy issues that we face every single day is cell phone courtesy.  If you don't have it, you better get it.  If those around you don't have it, well, welcome to the club because I'm shocked at how rude people are on their phones.

   I think I've been rude on my phone, I really think I have.  There's something really compelling when you're on the phone talking to somebody.  I use my phone to talk, so for me it's the phone part that's the rudeness because I can't do anything else with my phone other than set an alarm - that's its only other skill than calling people because I have a “dumb phone.”  Now, people whose phones can do lots of other things—that is “Smart Phones” don't have a phone problem, they have a computer distraction problem. 

   I'm on a bit of a self-improvement kick right now because whenever everything's going crazy around you and everything's going bad, the one thing you can do to change the world you live in is make yourself better.  I'm coming to realize there are lots of things I need to improve about myself and cell phone etiquette is probably one of them. 

   Did you know that July was National Cell Phone Courtesy Month?  It was created by Jacqueline Whitmore in 2002.  At that point in time, we didn't have Smart Phones, yet.  Those came out between 2007 and 2009.  In 2002 it was more just a question of talking on the phone, rather than a distraction machine, like they have become.  Even then Jacqueline saw the need for further etiquette around the use of cell phones.

   Cell phones are really addictive.  Like drugs, many people are addicted to their phones. 

   Despite the fact that my phone doesn't have any bells and whistles, I can't surf the internet, check Facebook, or play a game, I still find myself probably being incredibly rude by talking on the phone while trying to talk to someone else in person.  For example, I'll be in a place where there's nobody really around and I have a phone call I've got to make, the phone call becomes engaging and I'm having a great conversation.   Meanwhile I'm walking around in two worlds; one world is  the  conversation I’m having with the person I care about or at least am connected to in some way on the phone and the other part of my world is my physical self which is walking around maybe in the mall, maybe going into a store, maybe going into a business, maybe going in to pick up my mail while on the phone.  A part of me says I need to hang up the phone - I don't want to be rude to the person I'm talking to, but I don't want to be rude to the person in front of me who I may have to talk to, either.

   Jacqueline has suggested in this situation just ask the person on the phone if you can mute them or call them back in five minutes or so, so you can deal with the people who are physically in front of you.  She said we should put people first and technology second.  Even though it's a person on the phone, it's technology that's connecting you and the in-person connection should always receive our primary focus and attention.  I think on some level, which is completely wrong, that “it's a person” on the phone, too, when it's really a technology and I'm juggling it incorrectly with my face-to-face contacts.

   For 99% of the people out there, the phone is not just a way to communicate with people, it's what they use to get GPS coordinates, check on the situation in Turkey, look at the latest Trump report, read their Facebook, read their e-mail, and check their calendar.  If I can't even get off the phone while talking to a person, I can't even imagine what all those other distractions must be doing to people with Smart phones. 

   With all of the extra distractions caused by Smart Phones it can cause a lot of additional stress.  Aren't most people stressed out all the time now?  I don't think the phone is alleviating it.  It might not be the phone causing problems, but it certainly could be people misusing it.

   So, I think Jacqueline's advice is really good and I'm going to make a resolution that when I am on the phone - which is pretty much all the time - and I realize that I'm about to encounter a person face-to-face - I'm going to tell the person on the phone that I'm going to put them on mute or call them back. I’m going to try not to be in a situation where I've got two people vying for my attention at the same time, because that's rude to both of them.








This editorial was transcribed and adapted for print from a recent Katherine Albrecht radio program, by David Deschesne, with her permission. Dr. Katherine Albrecht, Ed. D. is a syndicated radio talk show host on the Genesis Communication Network. Listen to her program live daily, or download her podcast for listening at any time at Katherine’s website is: 


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