The Do’s and Don’ts of Mobile Phone Etiquette

March 15, 2010

You’re on a blind date, and your mobile rings. It’s your best friend text-messaging you, asking how it’s going. Do you secretly answer her under the table while pretending to be intrigued by your date’s brilliance? Or you are at a job interview, and you’re stumped when they ask what you think you are worth (earnings-wise). Do you excuse yourself for a moment and conduct a Google search on salary for that industry in the bathroom?

While you might know the answer to the second scenario (do your homework ahead of time), the first one poses a contemporary dilemma. How much connectivity, and in what capacity, is appropriate?

As alluring as digital immediacy can be, there are some rules of etiquette that, when applied, show you are the savvy, polite Digital Ager you were meant to be.

  1. Text-messaging is reserved for more casual communication. If you have something important to say, say it in person if possible. Ending a relationship via text message, for instance, is simply bad taste.
  2. When having a face-to-face appointment, put your BlackBerry aside. Scrolling through your email while your partner is trying to communicate with you is not only unproductive, it is plain rude. If now is not a good time, reschedule at a time when you can give your full attention.
  3. Let it go to voicemail. As hard as it may be, if it’s not an emergency, call the person back when your meeting is done. Better yet, turn off your phone during your meeting to avoid further distraction.
  4. Customize your ringtone for those calls you can’t miss so you can ‘hear’ whether or not you need to take the call without even looking at the phone.
  5. Remember what your mom said: Not in public! Don’t talk loudly on your mobile phone in enclosed public spaces. You may be excited about the topic, but that doesn’t mean others on the bus or in the restaurant share your enthusiasm.
  6. Ask if it is okay to answer your phone. You will score huge points with the person you are with if you show you care.

We need to grow with technology. That means remembering our manners while we enjoy our broader connections. Not every country observes the same rules of etiquette, so if you travel internationally with your mobile device, be sure you are informed as to what is considered proper behavior, and what’s not. In Japan, for instance, it is impolite to use your mobile in any capacity on public transportation.

The final rule of thumb: if you have to ask yourself whether it’s okay, it probably isn’t. Just because you are a stealth texter doesn’t mean you need to answer your best friend right away. Besides, she’ll understand. An old-fashioned post-date gab with your girlfriend in private is one of life’s greatest pleasures!

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