Candace Karu

E-Etiquette: Manners for the Electronic Age


Annoying woman on her cell phone To the guy in Borders walking up and down the book aisles screaming into his cell phone, hand covering his mouth. You know we can hear you, right? You know that blocking our view of your mouth in no way creates The Cloak of Inaudibility, right? You know that every person you pass or bump into as your carry on your conversation about converting calls into sales is giving you Stink Eye, right? Or maybe you don't know. Because if you did, why in the name of all that is holy, would you continue on this ill-conceived and deeply annoying course of action?

The relatively new and pervasive access to portable electronics has changed the way we interact in ways both profound and mundane. The rules of engagement on just about every level have changed along with this access. Given that, shouldn't it also cause us to examine how we use them in polite society? OK, I know how old fashioned the term "polite society" sounds, but honestly, all I'm suggesting is that we have a little respect for those around us, a little compassion for those who don't want to know the intimate details of our lives, as discussed on a cell phone.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not appointing myself the arbiter of electronic etiquette, the Emily Post of cyberspace. Heck, I'm as guilty as the next person when it comes to some of my less savory cell phone and computer habits. But lately, it seems bad cell phone and laptop manners have reached some kind of critical mass and I just have to comment (as well as reform). Here is my list of suggestions for good manners in the electronic age.

• If you must talk on your cell phone in a public place, please find a quiet spot for your call and stay there. There really is no need to talk and wander, inflicting your conversation on everyone you encounter.

• Here's a rule we learned in preschool. Use your Indoor Voice. If your cell connection is so bad you have to raise your voice above a quiet, conversational level, make the call some other time or some other place.

Woman Text Messaging While Driving

• Do not text and drive. Do not Tweet and drive. Do not Facebook and drive. Ever.* (Also, do not apply makeup and drive, but that's another post.)

•When you go into a meeting, turn off your cell phone. This rule applies to anyone whose initials are not B.H.O. or is not a member of an organ transplant team.

•We know what you're doing when, during a meeting, you continually stare down at your lap. Stop checking your email and pay attention to the people around you.

•If you are taking notes on your computer at said meeting, refrain from checking email, your Facebook status or the Twitter stream.

•Don't even bother bringing your cell phone to: the theater, movies, church, the library, museums, a first date, the gym. Please.

•Try to choose a ring tone that is subtle and non-intrusive, one that doesn't make someone want to rip the phone from your hands and stomp it to a million pieces. Baby Got Back at top volume is not a good choice, even if it's your girlfriend's "special" song.

•Hellooooo! I'm right here. Please do not text while you're talking to me. Look what kind of trouble that led to for Tiger Woods.

•Ditto the phone calls. You shouldn't make or take them when you're with an actual human presence. It's just rude.

Cell Phone Free Zone Green Road Sign and Clouds

•This is especially true for parents. When you're in the car with your kids, try to make it a cellphone (and MP3Player and video) free zone. Talk to each other. You won't regret it.

*Yes, Tim Karu, I will take my own advice.