It’s time to remember some manners: By practicing cell phone etiquette Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jul. 21, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Cell phones are really beginning to annoy me. They ring loudly at the most inappropriate times (during Mass is the worst), they interrupt conversations, and they keep people from face-to-face communication.

I have to admit it’s not the cell phones’ fault — it’s their users who are the problem. Some people seem to be addicted to their cell phones. They can’t put them down, even while they’re driving a car or pushing a cart in the supermarket.

Yes, cell phones are a handy means of communication. I initially got mine primarily to use in emergencies. I do use it more often now, especially since I can access my e-mail from my iPhone. However, my cell phone is not tethered to my ear. It’s not a life-support system. I turn it off when I’m in church and at most meetings. I don’t use it during get-togethers with family and friends.

Use consideration in business situations

Recently I attended a national Catholic media convention in Pittsburgh. Many people at the convention used their cell phones constantly. There weren’t as many opportunities to talk with people one-on-one. Once someone answered a cell phone while engaging in a conversation with me. I just walked away in frustration!

At the convention workshops and presentations, people again were on their cell phones and laptops. I can understand taking notes or perhaps sending messages about the talks. But I don’t think some convention attendees were paying any attention to the speakers.

In business meetings, the same thing happens. People use cell phones and laptops, often not listening to each other or engaging in conversation.

Safeguard family meal times

Meals are another time when I think cell phones should be put away. We always used to turn off the television during family meal time when our children were growing up. I think the same thing should apply to meal time today. That means putting away the cell phones and laptops, in addition to turning off the TV and radio.

Family meal time should be an opportunity for parents and children to talk about what they’re doing, to share their thoughts and concerns. When our family members visit now, we seem to have an unwritten agreement to refrain from using cell phones (at least most of the time). Of course, there can be emergency situations.

Show respect in church

Above all, cell phones should not be used in church. They should be turned off or at least silenced once someone enters a church. Our parish has a sign at its entrances asking people to refrain from using their cell phones, yet I still hear the theme from Zorro or a Beethoven symphony ringing at times during Mass.

Let’s show respect for God, the priest, our musicians, and others in the congregation by not using our cell phones during Mass, Eucharistic Adoration (yes, I’ve heard phones going off there, too), and any other church service.

Practice cell phone etiquette

I found these eight simple rules for cell phone etiquette summarized here on

1. In intimate public settings such as restaurants, public restrooms, waiting rooms, hallways, buses, or subways, put the ringer on vibrate or silent mode and let the call roll over to voice mail. If it’s an important call, step outside or to a safe secluded area to return the call.

2. Phones should be turned off in movie theaters, playhouses, observatories, or any other public place.

3. Cell phones have sensitive microphones that can pick up a very soft voice while blocking out ambient noise. Keep your voice low and your conversation private. Arguing or airing dirty laundry in public is poor etiquette.

4. Maintain a distance of at least 10-feet from the nearest person when talking on a cell phone.

5. Keep public conversations brief and get back to the caller when you’re not in a public place.

6. It’s rude to take a cell phone call on a date or during a social engagement with others. It’s also inconsiderate to take a call in the middle of a conversation.

7. Drive now, talk later. Most calls can wait until you’ve reached your destination or pull over to talk on the phone.

8. Turn off your phone before a job interview, presentation, or boardroom meeting. Leave it off at funerals, weddings, or anyplace a quiet atmosphere is mandated, such as a courthouse, library, museum, or place of worship.

Cell phone etiquette is just a matter of remembering good manners. Let’s use them!