In what social situations should you NOT use a cell phone?

    by Mark Glaser
    October 29, 2006

    If another friend of mine pulls out their cell phone while we’re hanging out together, I think I might scream. Isn’t the point of spending time with your friends and family that you spend quality time with them and not on your phone? Plus, now that cell phones have morphed into mini-computers with video, cameras, web access, texting, etc., they’re even more difficult to pry out of our tech-savvy loved ones’ hands. But still, there are no social norms around when we should and shouldn’t use a cell phone. Some states have passed laws against driving while using cell phones unless you use a no-hands headset. Some restaurants and businesses put up signs telling people not to talk on their premises. Let’s figure this out once and for all: When and where should you NOT be allowed to talk or text on your cell phone in public? Send me your rules and pet peeves, and I’ll collate them for a comprehensive list for the next Your Take Roundup.

    • at the theater.

      when on line at a store.

      when eating out.

    • Rosie Win

      What are needed are designated cell phone booths/areas for public places. If you need to talk, text, etc., you excuse yourself and go there. The rule would be no different from using a phone years ago — most calls can wait; use the cell phone areas only for important calls.

    • Fred

      Lets keep in simple! If you’re stopped using a cell phone while driving, the fine should be $500 and 3 points on your license. No excuses!

      Some restaurants will not enforce their rules about cell phones for fear of offending that “regular” guest. Like smokers, move them out on the street.

      As for friends, I have, and will continue to do so,walk away from them when that device comes out.

    • Judy

      Turn them off at the following: restaurants, theaters (movies and live performances), while walking in the street, shopping in stores, at baby showers and birthday parties, in classrooms, at the gym. I don’t understand the need/desire to so easily and freely disconnect from one’s surroundings! Just what is so fascinating at the other end of that cell phone?

    • phonetics

      actually, i don’t mind if my friends suddenly pull out their cells when we’re hanging out together. As long as it’s for talking, i don’t mind. But when they start to text and try to listen to you as well, then that’s when i wanna scream. Cause it almost always ends up with them only pretending to listen in the end. (btw, i am almost always busy picking up calls, so i can’t really get pissed off by other people doing the same thing, lol;-p)

    • See, I’m a busy executive — you never know when that text message might be important, urgent business … and neither does the other guy.

      Generally, I try to be sensitive to the situation. If I’m in a purely social conversation, and my boss texts me, I’m responding to his text, regardless of the subject. If I’m in a business meeting, I might ignore the buzz on my belt altogether.

      Group meetings are different from one-on-one conversations. Social gatherings are different than heart-to-hearts. Context is always important, and I think I’m the only one who gets to decide how to manage my communications.

      BTW: I stopped wearing a wrist watch. I’ve never wanted people to think I’m rude because I’m checking the time, which I do habitually. Since my Treo is always on vibrate, people never hear it, and so if I look at it, they don’t know if I’m checking an e-mail, ignoring a call, reading an SMS or checking the time.

      Well, that cat’s out of the bag.

      Another thought: If I need to break from a conversation for SMS or e-mail, I’ll excuse myself with an explanation: “I’m sorry, it’s my boss …” and my boss will understand if I give a quick answer followed by “in a meeting” … it’s all about balance.

      As for fining people for talking on the phone in the car: OK, but then let’s equally fine people for doing other distracting stuff in their car, such as changing the radio station, talking to a friend in the passenger seat or arguing with the kids about their homework. A mobile phone is no more nor less distracting than any other in-car activity.

    • Jill

      When you are out to dinner with friends – don’t use your cell to text. The only message you will send is that your present company isn’t worth your full attention. I suggest enjoying the moment.

    • ..and what about the non-mobile phone at home: plug it out or not?

      The problem is similar to users of mobile music devices like iPods, a recent commentary can be found here.

    • For some background, I am a certified geek. I run my own IT consulting business. My recommendation is to remember that technology is here to improve your life, not interfere with it. I think this philosophy will be adopted over time. When telephones were new, people would never think of ignoring a ringing phone (granted, there was no voicemail back then). Now, people ignore them all the time to enjoy better things. A conversation with the neighbor, dinner with the family etc… Eventually, most people will treat cell phones the same way. At least, I hope so.

      Also consider this. Playing with your mobile device may be a put-off to the people around you, but ignoring it can be a real compliment to those same people. When your phone starts to ring or vibrate when you are in a meeting or conversation. Click it off without bothering to see who or what it may be. Show the persons your are with how important they are to you.

    • alexmira

      i want know what is a “Modern Classification”, “Binominal Momenclature”and i wanna know about anting sientific “Stanley Miller and Harold Urey”.

    • Please see the Cell Zone the first commercially produced sound resistant cell phone booth.

    • Get more raw..can you not see that words are like empty…why not take the advantage of a priviledge to be where ever and do what you do ..and then be making some more awareness of what is more real than a cgi generated embedded news reality……. my friends in europe think that the united states of america is up for the highest bidder… i say it is a responsibitilty to me to not be in the bid , but to be free and hold the right to be so as a TRUTH… so on….as it hITS…got to the heart of the mater…and we may all find common ground…
      45 degree bows are right … and BEFORE us ALL is a better LOOK….

      more when I get to talk to H.S.T.

      There are many innings and so many outs..
      and then the ball game is OVER…


    • Sue

      I follow the rules that I hope other people would follow. For example I never take my phone with me if having dinner with friends, concerts, movie theaters. I don’t think cell phones should be allowed in classrooms either. The least that should be done is putting your ringtone on vibrate or silent.

    • Toto

      I often eat along in a restaurant, put my cell phone on vibrate, and will take a call. However, I usually bend my head so that I am talking down to the table and speak softly. My conversation on the cell phone is quieter than most people in the restaurant talking to their table companions. The reason most people yell is that cell phones do not have the built in function that landline have wherein you can actually hear yourself speaking better whilst on a landline. (I forget what this function is called.) So people think if they cannot hear themselves like they do on a landline, then the listener cannot hear them either and they raise their voices.

    • sonchen

      When sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for a flight, etc. please move away from the crowd to do your talking. We are not interested in how important you are or how loud you can talk! I have also overheard conversations that should have been confidential information but the speaker is broadcasting it all over the place.

    • David Hyte

      Are you SO important that you MUST use the cellphone in the restroom??!? I see/HEAR this all the time. How egotistical and crass do you really have to be to think that you are that important AND the person on the other end wouldn’t care that you’re talking to them while you’re using the loo!!! THAT’S WHY YOU HAVE VOICEMAIL WITH THE PHONE!!! Learn to use it.

    • sharon

      There is nothing worse than a cell phone user in a public lavatory. Enough said.

    • Bonnie

      These are to both talking on cell phones AND even having them ring.

      In any space where the user has a captive audience:
      e.g., on elevators, on subways, on buses

      In the classroom- Students should have more respect for education, their peers, and their professors.

      Some individuals have long, obnoxious (and usually loud) ringer tunes that they let play three or four times before answering (“OK, everybody, I’m sure you’ve noticed me now,” they seem to broadcast. Such people are obviously incapable of answering their phones after just one ring.

      They should be banned from all public gathering places such as restaurants, airports, theatres, etc.

      Doctors’ offices (waiting rooms). The last time I very politely asked someone to cease and desist in a small waiting room of a dr’s office which had a large sign saying, “Do not use your cellphone,” the person told me that she had been working fifteen hours that day and the call would just take a minute. Neither reason was at all relevant, yet a man chimed in with “Sometime it IS the only time available.” (Busy = MUST make a call = IMPORTANT….Huh?).

      PS I am certain though that even if there were an agreed upon etiquette, many would ignore it. There are already some places that ban cell phone use yet some individuals use them anyway (and get quite upset when one asks them to stop). The point IS to be noticed afterall. This invention is a narcissist’s dream.

    • Kay Butler

      The most irritating cellphone user is my sister, Marsha. She’s not a busy executive, an emergency worker, or anyone who needs to be contacted urgently. We’re in our 60s! I have told her many times I will no longer go to the movies with her because she accepts and MAKES calls during the show. A couple of times she just laughed while the caller spoke. She promised me it wouldn’t happen again and things went well the last time. This Monday, however, we went to see “The Queen,” and her phone did not ring…but by some miracle she took it out of her pocket, flipped it open and there was a text message on the LARGE BLUE SCREEN. She has had more than ten chances; it’s over. I guess she’s just better and more important than I and the other moviegoers.

    • paul bovino


      The cell phone, a.k.a. that despicable little piece of plastic, metal, and glass that so many of us use as our stamp of validation.
      Wow, Im a big boy now. I have my own cell phone.
      Hey, I can pull out a phone in my car just like Donald Trump. (Of course, his car is a Rolls, and yours should have been rolled down a hill years ago).
      007 has nothing on me-my phone flips just like his.
      How anyone actually believes that splitting their focus (or perhaps even losing it entirely) between the operation of their motor vehicle and their cell phone conversation, negotiation, appointment booking, argument, or whatever else theyre doing on that stupid thing, isnt dangerous, is beyond the most extreme stretches of my imagination. But we wont discuss that bit of American arrogance any further here. Read my book The Matastisizing of technology and the Morons Who Go Along with the Program, as They Park Their Fat Butts at the Computer for Hours a Day, and Park Cell Phones against Their Ears For the Rest of the Day, Whether Theyre at the Wheel of a Car, on a Treadmill at the Gym, Two Feet From You at the Airport Gate, at the Booth Next To You in a Restaurant, on Horseback, or Anywhere Else that Prompts Their Personal Insecurities. (Soon to be available at Barnes & Noble book sellers)
      Ive owned cell phones since 1981, long before they became available to Appalachian chimney sweeps. As a professional photographer, the availability of cell phones was a true blessing. In such a deadline oriented business, having a tool that allows you to make a quick call, without having to go nuts looking for a public phone, is very reassuring. Like everything else, it had its place. And, like everything else, it seems, especially with respect to techno-gizmos, it eventually became grossly abused. In most cases though, abusing other conveniences isnt nearly as annoying, potentially dangerous, and as potentially devastating to human communication as is the cell phone.
      Ive alluded to Cell Phone Jackass #1-the car phone shmuck, who thinks he can focus on his driving and shoot the bull at the same time. Weve all had conversations with Jackass #1 while he/she is at the wheel of their car. That conversation being compromised by the likes of the air conditioner, traffic noise, a weak signal, and Jackass #1s attempt to pay attention to something as all consuming as driving, and speak with you at the same time.
      Jackass #1 should be bound to a chair and made to watch hours of accident scene photos of the mangled bodies of people (particularly children) who were in car accidents where the driver was talking on a cell phone. Ive noticed that most Jackass #1s are fat people. Im not sure why. Maybe its because they can press their gut up against the steering wheel to compensate for the hand thats been sacrificed to their cell phone…Still cant use their turn signals though. You need a free hand for that.
      Lets look at Cell Phone Jackass #2-the shmuck whos behind you on line at the supermarket talking on her cell phone. You see, that way she doesnt have to deal with you, the person behind her, the checkout person, or anyone or anything else in her immediate environment. Jackass #2 can be seen at airport gates as well, or wherever theres potential to interact with other people in her present environment. Jackass #2 is training herself to never become fully involved in any of her communications, as well as training others to be tentative about investing any meaningful communication in her. Not too many people want to risk having their my puppy was run over by a car story walked on by some jackass who wouldnt think twice about answering his cell phone just as you were coming to the part where you were watching from across the street as your puppy came running out into the street toward you.
      Jackass #2 should be locked in solitary confinement, away from the society he/she disdains, for a minimum of 25 years. Then when shes released from prison she should be given ten bucks, one suit of clothes, and have a cell phone crazy glued to her ear, lest she forget what got her there in the first place.
      Now, lets look at Jackass #3. Thats the shmuck who leaves his cell phone turned on while youre out to lunch with him, answers the thing when it rings, and takes the time to carry on a long conversation with the caller; thereby rendering your company worthless, and annoying other restaurant patrons. Notice I say other restaurant patrons, and didnt say the other restaurant patrons, suggesting that he annoyed all the restaurant patrons. Thats because some of those other nincompoops are talking on cell phones as well.
      But, I have to keep in touch with my clients.
      It allows my wife and I to keep in better touch; what with the hectic pace of todays society.
      I can drive just as well while Im talking on my cell phone.
      Thats it. Keep BSing yourself-but dont wait up too long for Santa Claus.
      Everyone who knows me, whether its my horse-training clients, photography clients, parents of students I tutor, anyone I interact with concerning my writings (consultants, editors, publishers, etc.,), friends and family, knows that they cant reach me on my cell phone. They can leave a message if they wish, but they know full well that a call to my cell phone wont find me, personally, on the other end, because I never have it turned on. Its simple. I choose to be in communication with what Im in communication with. When Im driving, Im driving. When Im working with a horse, it has my full attention. When Im in a market, an airport, etc., the immediate environment, be they the people in my vicinity, be they fellow shoppers, or store workers, have my full attention; or at least, awareness and consideration. When Im with someone socially, I absolutely never insult them by having my cell phone ring while in their company, let alone answer it and carry on a conversation on it. The only exceptions to that might be if I had a loved one on a respirator.
      Cell phones are great emergency devices. Keep them as that. They do little to assist true communication, and much more to ruin it. First, stop BSing yourself about that. I promise you that there are no, yes, I said no effective communicators (with the exception of those involved with emergency health care) who have a cell phone always at the ready. Thats because their attention isnt on the here and now. Secondly, get yourself organized. Thats right, organized. Get all the information you need from your boss before you hit the road. Get the shopping list from your wife, before you leave the house. Okay, so the ole lady hasnt decided on what she wants you to pick up at the market. So pick up what you decide on for a change. F’Petesakes, do you need your ole ladys or your ole mans approval for everything?
      See, now that you dont have to worry about talking on your cell phone, you can kick back and fully involve yourself in your driving, that lunch with a friend, or smiling at and excusing yourself to that little old lady who you just knocked over in the canned vegetable and soup aisle. You can devote yourself appropriately to your boss without having to deal with a call from your husband or wife; or you can make love to your husband or wife without having to deal with your boss. Hows that for having a life?
      By the way, if youre talking on your cell phone and get into a car accident with me; make sure you kill me. If you dont, youll wish you had.

    • Jamie LaMoreaux

      I work at a playhouse and am always amazed at the inconsiderate jerks who use their cell phone cameras to take pictures. They are told NOT to photograph, tape or film the performance, but the minute lights go out, the ushers see blue lights go on. Don’t these idiots realize that we see them? And that from any row those phone camera pictures are just blurry spots of light? We LOVE to make people delete their pictures and escort them out of the theater. They ALWAYS bleat “but we didn’t know we couldn’t take pictures!” Parents don’t need to keep continual contact with their children. Get a babysitter you can trust and then do so. Parents also need to cut the cord when the kids go to collage. Don’t call during class time, their professors HATE that.
      No one needs to be on the phone 24/7 in a line anywhere, in a theater of any kind or DEFINATELY while driving. The dufus who said talking on the phone while driving wasn’t different from changing a radio station has NO idea of what he is talking about. No one is so important that they HAVE to be on the phone all the time. I refuse to have a cell phone and do not miss it for a second.

    • Jess

      Ah, cell phones… Let me count the ways…

      *red lights
      *dinner w/ friends (or enemies)

    • Lynda

      One should not talk on the cell phone at a funeral!! (It has happened)

    • MarkDilley

      I feel that all social situations require care and that one should step outside of that situation to have a cell phone conversation. If it is possible to ignore the call and focus on the people that you are phsically close to.

    • Sue

      Hmmm. Let me count the ways. Yelling on the cell phone in the car when there are other passengers.
      In the airport in a tiny waiting area.
      Restaurants, bathrooms, walking on the street (I have seen people almost get hit by cars because they are not looking!), DRIVING (the scariest, because it can kill), at your home when you have visitors (at least long, loud conversations),
      And don’t put it on speaker so I can hear both parts of the conversation. I consider that an invasion of the other person’s privacy, and just rude to the person listening.
      One of the worst things about cell phones is how much real time they are taking away from real living.

    • Carole

      Special areas for cell phone usage would alleviate much of the “bad feelings” regarding the use of cell phones in inappropriate places. People who need to do things that are not universally socially acceptable (e.g. smoking, blowing their nose, putting on makeup, etc.) have particular areas where they may go to do that activity. Why not have the same for using a cell phone. When your cell phone rings, if the call is THAT important and you feel you need to take the call–simply excuse yourself and go take care of it. If not, have the phone take a message and get on with your life!

    • Ashley

      Do you realize how much crime rates will increase if the use of cell phones gets banned in all public places? If there is a burglar in a bank you should be able to call the police and not get in trouble just because the use of your cell phone is banned in a “public place”. Also, if a restaurant catches on fire, you would not be able to call the fire department because the phones are banned yet again. And another thing, if you are using a cell phone in a car that is a “private place”, not a public one and they can’t ban the use of cell phones in a car because it is a private place. It would be like you telling someone they can’t watch T.V. in the own privacy of their own home!


    • jeremiah kng

      I was at church and i was getting a pretty important blessing and the guy giving me the blessins cell phone rang. What the hell

    • Elizabeth

      Howard Owens wrote in this blog, “A mobile phone is no more nor less distracting than any other in-car activity.” Actually, mobile phones are worse than many other activities. Whether the phone requires your hands or not, it requires concentration and has been proven to be one of the most dangerous activities you can do while driving, equivalent to drunk driving.

      People buy cell phones for safety and socialization, then achieve danger and obnoxiousness.

    • Jeremy

      Cell phones are rude to use in inappropriate areas. But from reading some of these some of you take it much to serious (paul bovino). Keep in mind that it is not a crime to use a cell phone and the most you can do about it is walk away or give the person a dirty look.

    • Selene

      Jeremy I think you either have never had something bad happen to you while encountering a cell phone abuser or you just plain don’t care. Maybe you need to just turn on the news. But to take something “to seriously” is not a bad thing. Most people nowadays don’t take anything seriously. “Oh well who cares it didn’t happen to me,” type attitude really makes me sick.

      Maybe the comment above yours was long but you don’t know what happened in this other person life either. Many different times my family members or myself have almost been seriously hurt due to one of these self important cell phone users.

      I just can’t believe it took them so long to put some laws out there to protect people, but then again everything is so political, and it doesn’t seem to stop them from using them either.

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