The rules of the tech road

Published 6:24 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2019

We’re dialed in. More and more, you see friends and neighbors with a smartphone — not just on their person, but in their hands, all the time.

Unfortunately, the rules of the tech road don’t come with a drivers manual. Many are simply unaware that their smartphone usage may be breaking cell phone etiquette rules.

July is Cell Phone Courtesy Month and U.S. Cellular is encouraging people to learn proper cellphone etiquette with the following suggestions:

  • Be respectful of your surroundings. Be mindful of phone use near people who are engaging in other activities as your conversation may be distracting and annoying to those around you.
  • Remember work is not always a phone zone. Depending on your company policy, while in a business meeting it’s OK to send a quick email about a time-sensitive work matter, but it’s inappropriate to spend the whole meeting staring at your device. In fact, 84% of professionals think it’s rude to use cellphones during business meetings, according to Forbes.
  • Use vibrate mode. When you’re shopping, dining or in a public place, turn your ringer off and put your phone on vibrate. You’re still alerted to incoming calls or texts, but spare those around you from the sound of your ring tone.
  • Respect phone-free zones. More than half of smartphone users surveyed by U.S. Cellular believe their phone enhances their life, but 64% say places of worship should be phone-free zones, followed by movie theaters (58%) and on a date (57%). Sometimes it’s best to spend a few hours unplugged fully enjoying an experience and the people around you.
  • Allow certain exceptions to the rules. If your family member is about to go into labor, you’ve left a sick baby with a sitter or you’re waiting for your doctor to call with test results, it’s perfectly reasonable to keep your phone accessible. Updating your social media status or checking a game score are not reasons to violate etiquette rules.
  • Don’t use your cellphone at the dinner table. Establish device-free mealtimes and enjoy conversation with family and friends (and more mindful meals) instead.
  • Don’t talk on your phone while interacting with people IRL (in real life). Put your phone away and be present in the moment or you may miss important information or a great experience.
  • Don’t speak loudly or shout while on the phone in public. The people on the bus, on the street or at the café don’t want to hear your conversation. Keep your voice down and be discreet with the content of conversations you have in public.
  • Don’t bring phones into the bathroom. The bathroom is one of the germiest places. Placing smartphones on the bathroom counter or toilet tank put them at risk for bacteria. Another risk? The possibility of dropping the phone in the sink, tub or toilet, which can damage the device. Make the bathroom a cell phone-free zone whenever possible.

Jeremy Taylor, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in eastern North Carolina, summed it up best: “If we remember one simple rule — people first, technology second — proper cellphone etiquette should be easy to follow.”