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Cell Phone Etiquette: Breathe


At a bustling family-run restaurant on the popular Portuguese seaside, the family next to me, a man, woman and two teenagers, stayed glued to their cell phones until their food arrived 30 minutes later.

On a train ride along the bucolic Hudson River in New York, a young woman pulled her curtain closed so that she could better view a film on her phone.

Teenagers, recently visiting a friend’s house, devoted regular chunks of time to their phones.

What are the rules of cell phone etiquette?

Are there rules? Are they cultural? Global? Generational?

No, there aren’t any rules. Of any kind.

It is difficult to accept that we don’t have a code of cell phone manners, especially, when we find ourselves in a situation where someone else’s use of the phone upsets us. And everyone has a different level of comfort.

Technology, and our acceptance of it, moved too fast for society to catch up. Instead, we allow technology to dictate to us. So, if we can, then we do, irrespective of the time, place and people around us.

We are not just talking about incoming and outgoing calls because most telephones now are mobile personal computers, or smartphones. In 2012, one billion smartphones were in use around the world. In 2013, global smartphone sales figures surpassed those for regular cell phones.

Phone etiquette is now more complex because of expanded phone capability. We can watch videos, do Internet searches, and add thousands of apps that supposedly make our lives easier.

My solution to cell phone etiquette is simple:

Be in the present.

How do we get there?

Take a breath. Become aware of what you are engaged in. Let the past and the future go. When the past and future, threaten to intrude – and they will - breathe again.

Being in the present doesn’t negate the impolite use of cell phones. However, it would curb it…tremendously.

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