Cell phones have become such an integral part of our lives that we rarely stop and give thought to when and how we use them. We have become rude, inconsiderate and, most importantly, dangerous in the ways that we use our pocket-sized computers, often jeopardizing the well being of those around us.
Texting while driving has become an ever-growing problem since SMS started catching on amongst young drivers. Even after laws that ban texting while driving and sometimes all cell phone use behind the wheel, drivers continue to tap away at their keyboards while steering a one-ton hunk of steel through busy streets. It's ludicrous to say the least.
More often than not, however, while our cell phone use may be rude and inconsiderate, it is harmless to others. For instance, back in June of last year, I wrote a piece explaining the need for mealtime etiquette. I can hardly go to dinner without someone drifting out of part of the conversation to respond to a text message, check their Facebook or tweet. I even find myself doing the same to others at and away from the dinner table. My priorities are out of balance and my desire and need to check my phone for new notifications is high on the list.
Gizmodo's Sam Biddle wrote How to Use Your Smartphone at a Concert Without Being A Jerk. He explains how someone bigger (taller) than you who is blocking your view is an old, analog problem that can be extremely annoying and frustrating, and how inconsiderate people using the blinding LCD of their smartphone in the generally dark atmosphere of a concert can be just as bad ... or worse. (I'm totally guilty of this, too.)
Biddle notes that while snapping a few photos as a "digital momento" isn't too much of a bother, people will want to continually share their snapshots with Facebook, Twitter or all of the other social networks they're a part of. He suggests keeping this to a minimum. However, Biddle says, if you must take photos, for the sake and sanity of others:
- Wait for light. Give the camera a chance to make something that isn't a smeary mess. Wait for a flare, or strobe, house lights, pyrotechnics, or something else to brighten the stage.
- Use both hands. Extra stability may be the difference between a waste and a winner.
- Skip the flash. You're not close enough to the stage for it to make a difference, and you'll just blind people around you.
- Shoot in bursts. Don't peek at each picture you take. Just snap as many as you can in a row. Bump up your odds. No videos
- No videos – They probably won't look or sound very good. But if you have your heart set, try to keep them short—a song, not an entire set. Odds are some other jerk is doing this exact thing, and it'll on be YouTube the next day. How about a nice, inconspicuous voice memo?
- No tweets – Don't overshare. Your followers don't need a constant social barrage of digitized concert documentation that probably sucks to begin with. You're here to watch music, not talk about music. There's plenty of time back home for that.
- No calls – Don't call a friend when a song you both like is playing, just to hold the phone up so they can "listen with you." They can't hear [redacted] and it just rubs in the fact that they're missing the show.
- No iPad – Unless your family's life is being threatened, and the only way to guarantee their safety is to bring an iPad to the concert, don't bring an iPad to the concert.
While Biddle has several valid points and gives great advice (that can be applied to many different situations, not just concerts), I can think of several more inappropriate times for people to be using their cell phones. While concerts are generally dark and the LCD of a smartphone is certainly blinding, so are the strobe and flood lights that are somehow aimed perfectly at your retinas. Not to mention, there are usually a lot of other things going on – people are moving and jumping, beer is sloshing around, things are being thrown, etc. There are a lot of things that should keep you occupied and your attention away from "that guy" who keeps tweeting his grainy, dark, blurry photos.
The absolute worst, though, is the movie theater. Just last week I went to the midnight viewing of The Hunger Games. Before the show, an employee of the theater came out, hushed everyone and warned us that they have a strict, no-tolerance policy on cell phone use during movies and that anyone caught with their phone out, even just to check the time, would be escorted out without a refund. And rightfully so. But that didn't stop the man two rows down from me from texting his boo throughout the entire movie.
Likewise, sporting events. At a Hurricanes hockey game a couple weeks ago, my mother insisted on catching up on all of her Words With Friends and Draw Something games while the puck was in play. Honestly, it shouldn't have bothered me – I had my phone out some, too, snapping photos and tweeting. She was the one missing the game, not me. And her playing wasn't really distracting me at all. What bothered me, though, is that we paid money and drove several hours just to see these two teams duke it out on the ice, and there she was playing games on her phone, as if the game wasn't enough entertainment for her. (It just didn't make sense to me. She loves hockey much more than I do and it was a fantastic game, a seemingly effortless shut-out for Cam Ward.)
It's a bit hypocritical for me to complain. I do the exact same thing at times. We all do at some point or another. But I think we all should be a little more mindful of it, or at least put a little more effort into being less rude or inconsiderate.
Unless I'm to myself where no one is talking to me, I try to keep my cell phone use to a minimum. But, sometimes, my phones get the best of me. It wasn't until I was walking out the door today at my grandmother's house that I realized I had spent the last 15 minutes or so buried in my phone and I had no clue what she had been talking to me about. I did this without thinking, without any regards whatsoever. And, needless to say, I felt horrible.
I feel horrible any time I realize that my phone use is putting someone on the back burner. Everyone should – unless, of course, it's to avoid an awkward situation. (We've all had that two-person elevator ride with a complete stranger while you blankly stare at your phone and flip through your home screens pretending you're working on important business. Don't deny it.)
There's no question that dangerous cell phone habits, like texting while driving, should die. But rude and inconsiderate and inappropriate habits – like checking your phone or taking a call mid-conversation – should, too. Let's fix this, everyone.
Image via ExactTarget