Mobile phones are amazing pieces of technology and are capable of keeping us all more connected than ever before in the history of humanity, not to mention having an extraordinary range of useful functions. Of course, while they are a basic part of our lives now, we need to be considerate about exactly how we use our phones when around other people – we need to think about mobile phone etiquette. The idea that etiquette is a static, fusty, old collection of rules is very wide of the mark – it is an ever-evolving set of customs designed to help prevent stress and conflict in societies. Of course, nobody can deny how central the mobile phone is to modern society, and for that reason, any modern idea of manners and etiquette must take into account how important these devices are for keeping us all connected. In a sense, both etiquette and mobile communication are working for complementary purposes – they are both about helping us all live together as a group.
Despite how much customs and manners vary from age to age and culture to culture, at the core of all etiquette is a basic idea: being thoughtful towards those around you. It is through exercising this thoughtfulness that we show respect for one another so that we can work, travel, and live together. Since mobile phones have become smarter, it isn’t really a matter of choosing communicating with someone far away versus respecting those near you, as smartphones are so sophisticated now that you can do both.
For instance, when using your mobile in an enclosed public place – a train, for example – it is important to be mindful of those around you. There has been some research to show that one of the reasons that people find it hard to be near those having loud conversations on their phones is that human beings find it psychologically difficult to process half a conversation. So, when possible, try to put a bit of distance between yourself and any group if you are planning to talk on your phone for more than a few minutes.
At the same time, keep in mind that your phone is a sophisticated device, and you will often not need to raise your voice when having a mobile conversation. Trust your phone to be able to pick up your voice.
Most importantly for mobile phone usage, remember that you have a wide range of options. For example, the new Blackberry 10 phones had a lot of design research put into them to provide the best possible keyboard for a smartphone, which gives you an excellent alternative way of communicating. If you are in a place where a telephone conversation may be inappropriate, why not send a text or email instead? Make use of the diversity of your mobile phone’s abilities and pick the function that best suits the situation.
The same goes for your phone alerts and sounds. You have the ability to very simply turn down your ring-tone, or even set your mobile to vibrate when you are in a quiet environment.
Remember, mobile phone etiquette is not about stopping you from communicating with others, it is about finding the most considerate way of using the many options available to you.