I had to make an important phone call last night, but my cell phone battery indicator was down to one bar, and there wasn’t a single pay phone, anywhere, I was then that I realized just how dependant we’ve become upon our various, portable, electronic devices. I don’t know how I ever lived without my Ipod and my cell phone, but, like many people, I never leave home without them. Electronics etiquette is not very different from any other types of considerate behavior. Although people complain that they are annoyed by other users, they often don’t follow considerate and common sense, themselves.
Portable electronic devices connect us to the outside world, but they also alienate us from the outside world, more than ever. Who hasn’t been irritated by someone else using one of these gadgets?
Cell phone users are the worst offenders, and they are the most common. You can carry cell phones anywhere, but if you use them “wherever, whenever,” you are most likely going to disturb your unintentional, public, audience, who will be forced to listen to your private conversations being conducted in public places. When you talk on a cell phone, you naturally tend to raise your voice. Everyone can hear everything you are saying. I have been subjected to angry fights between lover, stock tips, teenage girl talk, and the “too-much-information” details of a man’s prostate surgery, simply because I was a captive audience near these people on their cell phones. At the movies, I sat next to a woman who couldn’t stay off her cell phone, not even during the movie. After she had picked up her cell phone several times, someone complained to the ushers. Alas, the woman wasn’t asked to leave, wouldn’t go on her own, and continued to use her cell phone during the rest of the movie. Wouldn’t it have a lot wiser and less expensive for her, and a whole lot less annoying for those around her, if she’d just stayed home? Of course, the simple act of a cell phone ring can be annoying. We are constantly being subjected to the tinny sounds of cell phone ring tones that are supposed to be unique, but so many people have them that you can’ tell them apart. Most of us have witnessed a cell phone ringing featuring the latest Nelly Furtado song, to faux sound of an actual phone, ringing, and watching half the people in the room checking to see if it is theirs. Hand held cell phone use has been banned in most, if not all states, but I often see drivers with one hand on the wheel, the other on a cell phone held to their ear. It’s not safe for them to drive one-handed and distracted, but it’s just as bad for everyone else who has the misfortune to have to be on the road with these people.
Blackberry users are also increasingly common (by “Blackberry” I mean any type of multi-functional communications device that work in real time). Some people become so attached to them that they cannot stop looking at their little screens, watching for emails that show up constantly, in real time. “It’s a bit like playing the slot machine” explained one woman. “You never know when something important will show up in email and I don’t want to miss it.” Since so much of the email the average person receives is spam, anyway, is this really a good use of time? The blackberry has become a common source of tension between couples, too. One woman, for example, complained that her husband was so addicted to her blackberry (often called “crackberry” due to it’s addictive nature) that he even took it into the bathroom with him all the time. A man describes the day he and his partner were walking and his partner couldn’t put the blackberry away. This man walked all the way ahead down the street, and his partner never noticed, because he’d never looked up even once from his blackberry screen.
In the old days, if you say someone talking to himself on the street, you’d assume that person was crazy. These days, when you see people walking down the street talking to themselves, you just assume they’re hooked into their phone or MP3 player, using an earpiece. Speaking of which, MP3 and Ipod users are not exempt from poor electronics etiquette, either. I find it amusing, but unpleasant, to hear someone screaming out the lyrics to a song (even more so if the song is full of offensive words or references and they’re singing way off key), no matter how much they’re enjoying it, themselves.
If we didn’t “do unto others,” the very things that annoy us, wouldn’t we all be better off? Being “in public” means that you are sharing your private “space.” That means that when you invade the space of others with your own, bad, electronics etiquette, you are like to have your own private “space” invaded as well. So please be considerate the next time you are using a portable electronic device, which will probably be today. Feel free to send this around. Also, if you subcribe to the Advice Sisters free, bi-monthly Enews you’ll be among the first to be notified when our list of Portable Electronic Device Do’s and Don’ts are published. You will want to clip and save them, and share them with everyone you know.