There are very few people in this world who possess the kind of social graces intrinsic to the characters in an Austen novel. Some would argue the children of the ‘information revolution’ lack social propriety altogether. Despite the rumors that etiquette is dead, many of us do manage to exercise a little common courtesy toward our fellow man. After all, etiquette exists simply to make the whole society caper a little less confrontational. The introduction of wireless communication has taken social interaction to an unprecedented level. Mobile technology allows people to communicate regardless of time or location, giving rise to a raft of contemporary etiquette concerns. Foremost among these concerns is consideration for the sensibilities of those in our physical presence when we take a call. Is it impolite, for example, to conduct a phone conversation whilst engaged in a carnal act? The contemporary socialite must also extend courtesy to the absent caller. Is it offensive to conduct a telephone conversation whilst using the toilet? This article offers guidance to the bewildered and brutish.
1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that cell phones must be switched off in the theatre. There is absolutely no excuse. Offenders shall be tarred and feathered. Obviously, this also applies to the cinema, the symphony and spoken word, and performance art. Rock concerts and hip-hop shows are generally considered exempt, however, a punter with his fingers in his ears screaming ‘Huh? huh? huh?’ into his cell is a frightful sight.
2. When piloting an automobile, use a hands-free device or resist answering incoming calls. Not only is it dangerous to talk and drive, but it is also illegal in many countries. Care should be taken not to incite road rage in other motorists. Furthermore, chatting vacuously on your cell while mounting the footpath will pique pedestrians.
3. Conducting loud cell phone conversations on public transport should be avoided at all costs. To believe that other commuters ought to be interested in your conversation is narcissistic at best, to subject travelers to your confabulation is an indulgence. Moreover, as one clever blogger puts it, there is a special circle of Hell reserved for people who, upon buying a new phone, cycle through every available tone on the bus or train on the way home.
4. When in the company of others, neither take nor make telephone calls. Nothing is more irksome than being spurned by a friend whose frequent cell phone conversations take precedence over live tete-a-tete. Answering an incoming call in an interview or business meeting is a faux-pas that is to be avoided at all costs.
To observe basic cell phone etiquette is neither difficult nor inconvenient. Technology such as cell phones creates many possibilities for the advancement of society; society is founded upon mutual regard for one another. Always refer to the fundamental principle of good manners: treat others as you yourself wish to be treated. As for holding a cell phone conversation on the toilet…ignorance is bliss.