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Are “cellphone use” and “etiquette” contradictory terms?

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Greg Peck
September 26, 2013

I'm sure I've addressed the lack of cellphone etiquette at least once in a previous blog. But the topic keeps coming at me like a drumbeat in recent days.

A few weeks ago, we visited relatives. I walked into a room, and the two adults and child sitting there weren't conversing; rather, all three were playing games or communicating with someone else on electronic gadgets. I shook my head.

I have a relative who doesn't visit too often, but when he does, he will quickly check his cellphone whenever he gets a text message or call.

The other day, a friend forwarded me a chain email containing a handful of photos. Maybe you've seen it. Photos show “A day at the beach,” “Having dinner out with your friends,” “Out on an intimate date,” “Having a conversation with your BFF,” “A visit to the museum,” and “Enjoying the sights.” You guessed it—in all cases, the people in the photos are ignoring each other while glued to their own electronic gadgets—including four girls (one the driver) in a car in the last photo.

One last photo in this email shows Albert Einstein with this quote:

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

That day, the email suggests, is here.

(By the way, I'm not sure Einstein actually said that, and I couldn't confirm it in a quick email search I did this morning.)

Regardless, my wife and I enjoyed the company of this friend and his wife on Sunday during the Packer game. My cellphone quietly vibrated in my pocket with incoming text messages several times during the game, but I knew better than to pull it out.

Today's Gazette contains an Annie's Mailbox in which advice columnists Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar discuss phone etiquette.

They write: “Basic phone etiquette says that you do not take a call when you are with someone else. Letting it disturb your conversation indicates that the call is more important than the person you are with. If it is an emergency, excuse yourself and call back. Try not to speak too loudly. Every person around shouldn't be privy to your conversation. (It is also a safety issue in case you are giving out personal information.). If someone ignores you to answer a call or play Angry Birds, ask them nicely to please put their phone away. If they still cannot focus their attention on you, say, 'I can see that you are busy. I'll talk to you later.'”

All seem like reasonable suggestions to me...

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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