7 Rules for Using Your Cell Phone in Public

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

With cell phones so ubiquitous these days, it’s hard to avoid people on their cell phones. Whether it’s that rude coworker talking about details of their personal life in the middle of the office for everyone to hear, or that friend who seems to be more interested in Facebook than listening to you. Putting up with it is part of modern life.

So how do Americans feel about cell phone use? The Pew Research Center released a report this week gauging American’s views on cellphone etiquette, and found that most are generally tolerant of public cell phone use, depending on the situation.

For example, three quarters of respondents think it’s OK to use your phone walking down the street or on public transit, but less than four in ten say the same about cell phone use in restaurants. Keep your phone away in meetings though: only five percent of those surveyed say it’s OK to use your phone during a business meeting, and the same amount found it OK to use your phone in a movie theater or in church.

We generally agree that use of a cell phone during a conversation is a bad thing, and find it is either occasionally or frequently disruptive (82%). Age also plays a factor in tolerance: the younger you are, the more accepting you are of cellphone use in public, Pew finds.

The survey aside, we still think there are some basic principles to follow so that you’re not one of those people we’ve grown to hate. What can you do right now to make sure you’re not bothering or offending those around you? Read on to find out.

1. In line? Get off your phone

Nothing annoys people more than someone who cannot stop their phone call for 30 seconds in line at the grocery store, or at Starbucks. These lines move quickly, and the employee may need your attention. Yes, in long lines it helps pass the time, but put the phone down when you’re about to be waited on. Training site Business Training Works argues that not doing so is rude, and expect that a business may not help you until you’re off your phone. Put the phone down and give the employee your undivided attention.

2. Keep the phone away in a meeting

Business Training Works also recommends not bringing your phone to business meetings. Answering a phone call during the meeting sends the message that the meeting itself — and its participants — are not as important as whomever you’re interrupting everyone to talk to. Turn the phone off and/or keep it at your desk while you’re meeting with others, especially your boss.

3. Always assume people can hear you

We’ve all seen it: somebody walking through a public place having a conversation that obviously isn’t meant for our ears. As Lifehack writes, keep your voice down. Always assume that somebody can hear what you’re talking about, and also assume that they don’t want to hear it. If you’re going to have a conversation about private details of your life, please find somewhere where the rest of us don’t have to be subjected to listening to it by force.

4. The restroom is not for phone calls

Another annoyance for many is those who sit in the stall having a conversation with God knows who. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard some absolutely obscene conversations while trying to go about my business. I don’t know if it’s the setting or what, but it’s rude nevertheless. It’s widespread too: Grammarly reports that as many as 87 percent of people have taken a call while on the john. Play a game or text if you really need to keep yourself busy — we’ll all thank you for it.

5. In the car, it’s hands free or not at all

The Governor’s Highway Safety Association says that in 14 states and Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is illegal to use your cell phone in your vehicle without a handsfree device. I’ll go a step further and say in the other 36 states you shouldn’t be using your phone while driving either. If you need to make a phone call, use some type of handsfree device or your car’s built in Bluetooth. Doing so will keep both hands on the wheel, and both eyes on the road.

6. That said, leave the headset in the car

While it’s great to use your handsfree device in the car (and you should), outside the car it’s a bit weird. No doubt you have seen at least one or two people wondering the aisles of the supermarket having a full blown conversation with — at least it would appear so — themselves. Business Training Works suggests using the phone normally in these situations, as it lets people know you’re on the phone and not psychotic.

7. Don’t use your phone in social situations

If you are in a group of people and in the middle of a conversation. resist the urge to use your phone — especially if it’s to avoid being a part of the conversation itself. There are other ways to politely excuse yourself other than appearing disinterested. Give everyone your complete and undivided attention. If you need to take a call or respond to a text, politely excuse yourself to do so, Reuters suggests.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

More from Gear & Style Cheat Sheet: