From the grocery store to the mall and even the bathroom, it’s impossible to avoid smartphones these days. The amazing technology is both a blessing and a curse—we have access to all kinds of information and connections literally at our fingertips, but smartphones are now everywhere and are often interrupting everyday life. When is it appropriate to be on your phone and when should you put it away? Check out these etiquette dos and don’ts.
Be present. Just because you have a smartphone doesn’t mean it should take away from your in-person communication. So often people spend more time on their phones during social gatherings and meetings than conversing with family and friends and business associates who are right in front of them. Show respect for the people around you by valuing your time together and putting the phone down. Any texts or phone calls you receive during a social gathering will still be there when you are done—there’s no need to interrupt a conversation or miss out on interpersonal time to respond to a non-urgent text. Emergencies happen, and if something serious comes up that you need to attend to right away, be sure to excuse yourself politely and take the phone outside or to another room.
Enjoy the show. Chances are the people around you didn’t come to a show or concert to be distracted by the light of your phone filming everything. It’s also a disservice to performers, who often don’t like knowing that everything they do will be broadcast on the Internet. A growing number of performers and theaters are requiring patrons to turn off their smartphones in an effort to create a more intimate environment. After all, people who are trying to record everything on stage and taking selfies often aren’t as engaged in the performance and can create a hollow audience. Some groups are even turning to Yondr, a new technological pouch that essentially seals a smartphone inside and prevents users from taking photos or video or sending texts until the pouch is unlocked at the end of the show. The reviews are great: performers and audiences alike seem to be enjoying the freedom that comes from being able to really enjoy a show.
Unplug. Constant connectivity is great for business, but it can be a drain on personal energy. Find some time on a regular basis to turn off your phone and enjoy real life around you: go on a walk, spend time with family, read an actual book, or write a letter. You’ll come back refreshed, energized, and ready to tackle those messages you missed. Trust us, the world will keep moving even if you are away from your smartphone for an hour.
Spellcheck. Smartphones now come equipped with spell-check, grammar-check, and auto-correct, which means you don’t really have a reason to send an email or text with mistakes, especially if you’re communicating for business. Slow down and take some time to re-read your message before you send it, it makes you look more credible and professional, even in casual conversations.
Use loud notifications. We’ve all been in meetings or inappropriate public places like movie theaters and heard a person’s loud notification. While a loud sound or flashing light is fine for alerting you to a text or email when you’re at home, notifications should be quieter when you are in public or at work. A good rule of thumb is to set your phone to silent when you are interacting or surrounded by others and to put your phone on vibrate only when it is in your pocket—a vibrating phone on a conference room table or in a purse can be just as loud and distracting as a high-volume ringtone.
Shout. Modern cellphones have great microphone technology, and yet some people still feel the need to shout into the phone. When you yell, it creates an unpleasant experience for the person on the other end of the line and for everyone around you. Trust that the strong microphone will pick up your voice and that people will be able to hear you—this is especially true in quieter situations, such as a waiting room or a quiet store. No one wants to be forced to listen to your private conversations just because your voice is too loud.
Post without asking permission. Smartphone cameras are everywhere, which means it has never been easier to take photos and videos of your everyday activities. Before posting pictures of someone, especially if it isn’t a particularly flattering photo or situation, ask the people in the photo. The same goes for taking photos and videos of strangers: if you don’t know them, don’t post it. You wouldn’t want random people posting pictures of you, would you?
Forget to respond. Smartphones bring all of your modes of communication to a central source, which means you really don’t have much of an excuse for not responding to someone for a few days. Try to respond to any message on your phone, either email, text, call, or social media, within 24-48 hours, even if it’s just to say that you’ll get back to them later. A quick response is often better than no response at all.