Talking on the phone while driving; checking Facebook at the dinner table, taking pictures of everything. We're all annoying someone with the way we use our phones. No-one's suggesting you should stop using your phone altogether, but a little consideration goes a long way.
In truth, most mobile phone etiquette dramas boil down to everyone recognising one simple fact: you are not the only person in the world. People who can't go five seconds without a Facebook update at dinner need to remember that there are other people sitting at the table. People who don't want to hear someone else chatting on the train should remember the conversation will end soon enough. Tolerance is the key. With that said, here are some specific examples of how you might annoy others with your phone and how to stop.
The Multi-Tasking Driver
Driving and using a phone is illegal, but that doesn't stop people from doing it. The solution: remove the temptation. If your willpower for blocking out a mobile phone ring is weak, silence your phone before you get in the car so you're not distracted by it. If that doesn't work, put it in the boot — you can't answer it there. If you must conduct conversations in the car, use a Bluetooth headset — you're breaking the law if you don't — and make sure you have effective voice control. Photo by eyeliam.
The Smartphone Addict
Ever since mobile phones have first appeared, our dining companions have been complaining: "Put your phone away while we're eating!" Smartphones have made things worse. You feel the urge to grab your phone to check social networks, texts, phone calls or even play a game while you're in public with friends. You need to think things through before you grab your handset.
In Real Simple's Tech Etiquette Manual, author Will Schwalbe suggests that if you wouldn't work on a crossword puzzle in a given situation, then it's probably not a good time to use your smartphone. Simply put, if someone is in front of you and wants your attention, it's probably not the best time to tap away on your phone.
If you struggle with that, you may have a smartphone addiction (rather than just having bad manners). You should treat it like any other addiction and wean yourself off it. We've talked about doing this by outlining your own rules of use (no phone usage at social events, no answering calls on a date, or no smartphone usage during short-term interactions) and disabling alerts. You can also forcibly block social networks during certain times of the day so you can reclaim your attention span and enjoy the moment. Photo by John.
The Poorly-Timed Photographer
Most people aren't annoyed if you snap a picture or two on your mobile phone. That changes when you ignore what's going on in front of you to edit, annotate, crop, filter and post that picture to a social network. Sure, sometimes a picture deserves to go up right now, but most times it's OK to wait a few minutes until you're alone. If you're in a situation where you're interacting with people, feel free to take as many photos as you want. But when you're done, hold off on the editing, cropping and sharing until after the event. Latergram, anyone? Photo by Chris Radcliff.
The Constant Caller
Many people will happily carry on loud public conversations on trains, at cinemas, in the checkout queue or while with a group of friends who are trying to converse with each other. This is, essentially, selfishness. Just because you don't care if your conversation remains private doesn't mean everyone wants to hear it. The rule of thumb here is very simple: if you're going to talk on the phone in a public spot, step away from other people. Always. When you take that call, make sure you excuse yourself politely. If you're stuck in a small public space (or on a train or bus), try to keep the conversation as short as possible and speak at a normal volume. And don't talk on the phone in a public toilet. No excuses — just don't do it. Photo by Lee Brimelow.
What bad phone habits do you encounter, and how can they be fixed? Tell us in the comments.