Mind Your Mobile Manners

What are the top three rude behaviors as reported by Americans when it comes to using mobile communication devices?

According to the latest survey sponsored by microprocessor developer Intel, the most aggravating misbehaviors have remained the same from 2009 to 2012:

  • Texting or typing while driving (77%)
  • Talking loudly during phone conversations in a public place (64%)
  • Having the volume too loud in a public place (55%)

Additionally, 81% of those surveyed believe that mobile manners are worse now—up from 75% in 2011.

Mobile devices have been with us only since WiFi was integrated into computers in 2003. We can draw parallels to the development of the automobile in the early 20th century.

Growth in the popularity of automobiles led to regulations that addressed safety first, polite behavior second. Manners had to be introduced as the need for them cropped up: Stop signs and traffic lights regulated whose “turn” it is to go; speed limits reclaimed the right of pedestrians in the road. Eventually, we ended up with the “Rules of the Road” and penalties for breaking driving laws.

Early regulation of mobile device behavior is in line with those rules of the road. States, cities, and counties are passing legislation on the way mobile devices may and may not be used while driving. These rules are aimed at preserving the safety of all: drivers, passengers, pedestrians. The finer rules that must develop for mobile behavior are still being formed.

Like most manners, mobile etiquette arises from people becoming aware of those around them and then choosing simply to be polite. We don’t need a police officer to tell us that a loud phone conversation with crude language conducted at Starbucks or in line at the supermarket is bad manners and offensive to those around us.

The Pew Research Center reports that 77% of us own computers, 44% own smart phones, and 18% own a tablet. Ten percent of us own all three! According to the latest Intel survey, fully 92% of adults wished that people practiced better mobile manners in public. Will that 92% who long for mobile device civility begin to practice it themselves?

Anna Post, of the Emily Post Institute, notes that, “The premise of etiquette and how we socialize with one another is not a new concept. Whenever we interact with another person directly or through the use of mobile technology, etiquette is a factor.” She offers the following tips to establishing our mobile manners:

  • Practice what you preach. If you don’t like others’ bad behavior, don’t engage in it.
  • Be present. Give your full attention to those you are with, such as when in a meeting or on a date. No matter how well you think you multi-task, you’ll make a better impression. [Psychological studies suggest you’re more efficient and effective when concentrating on one job at a time, rather than when multi-tasking.]
  • The small moments matter. Before making a call, texting, or e-mailing in public, consider if your actions will impact others. If they will, reconsider, wait, or move away first.
  • Talk with your family, friends, and colleagues about ground rules for mobile device usage during personal time.
  • Some places should stay private. Don’t use a mobile device while using a restroom.

Mobile etiquette is a simple extension of social etiquette. We do not have to learn new lessons; we simply need to adapt the old rules to this new technology.

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