Cell Phone Etiquette Revisited – A Rant

First, I must warn you that this is going to be a bit of a rant.

In January I wrote a blog post about cell phone etiquette.  It pains me to revisit this topic so soon, but I was moved by an experience I had at a networking event this week.

Second, I have to make an admission.  On Friday, I got my first “smart phone”.   This is a phone which allows me to get emails, text (for the first time), and surf the web.  Until this point I did not own a “dumb phone” which is characterized as a phone which has some multimedia capabilities – I had an “idiot phone” – the same cell phone I have had for more than 7 years.  All I did was get calls and voicemail on this cell phone.

So, now that I have joined the 21st Century, and some may say the 20th, I am not so sure this is a step up in my life.   I am not only an information junkie, but I am also a “twitterholic” (they say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem).  I tweet all the time.  But until yesterday, I was only able to do so when in front of a computer.  So when I was on the road, I gratefully gave up my tweets to actually have a life.  Now, I will have this ability to do so at any time…. Good thing?

Anyway, back to the meat of this post.  At this networking event, while standing and chatting with a small group, after I had been asked what I do for a living, I was asked the more effective way to work a networking event.  This is one of my favorite topics and one which I will discuss in a later post.  Suddenly, one of the members of the group pulled out his “smart phone” and started to respond to a text or email he had received.  I stopped talking.  After completing the message, he looked up and me and said:  “What?”

“Do you realize that what you have done is stand in a group and ignore the rest of us while you took that message?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said.

“Do you also realize that it makes the rest of us feel unimportant? And that you could have excused yourself to respond.” I continued.

His answer was:  “Yes, but I don’t care.  I was still listening to you.”

Now this really got my goat!  The fact that he did not care, that having his head down and typing, was an indication that he was not interested in what I, or anyone in the group, had to say spoke volumes in terms of his relationship building skills.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  PEOPLE DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE THEY LIKE.

And how do you get people to like you?  While there are many ways to do this, one of the most important is listening intently to what they are saying.  This means that while you are at a networking event you do not become hostage to your Blackberry, IPhone, Droid or whatever other “smart phone” you are using.  I understand that some very important things may come up during a time when you are with others.  However, it only takes a moment to excuse yourself from the group and go to a corner to conduct your business.

Honestly, I truly hope, now that I have a “smart phone” of my own, I do not become so addicted that I forget that people have feelings.  I still fully intend on not being a slave to the sound of my Blackberry going off and people will have to understand that, while I will respond quickly, I will not respond immediately if I am not available.

Do you have any thoughts on this?


  1. How often do you write your blogs? I enjoy them a lot 8 2 4

  2. I’ve got a few horror stories like this and also have been the lead culprit myself a few times. Your words give me reason to reflect on my actions and try to correct the behavior. I doubt I’ll completely be able to do it though. Like smoking, it’s hard to kick the habit when you are around people who are doing it too.

  3. dietcokeluvah says

    I feel like younger people don’t get as upset w/this occurrence, but it sends a very clear message to me. Friends that exhibit this behavior sometimes make me wonder “why am I even here?”

    Bottom line: Devoting your attention to an electronic device makes others feel like they aren’t important, even when in a non-business related environment.

  4. Jaimie Field says

    John – it’s a matter of making other people feel important. And as I mention in my other blog post about cell phone etiquette, unless you are a doctor, drug dealer or have kids under the age of 15, there is nothing that cannot wait a little while till you have the time.

    DietCoke Luvah – Thank you for your comment. Us “elderly people” who remember what life was like when you only had a cell phone have to make it clear to the “youngsters” that in business its also about what you say with your non-verbal habits.

    I appreciate you both commenting.

  5. This is sadly an epidemic and becoming an accepted way of life. I used to be appalled at this behavior and even though it still bothers me sometimes, I have grown accustomed and even engaged in the practice myself. Pathetic, I know.

    I still get angry at my mother because she always answers a second call while we are talking on the phone. I’ve asked her why, told her I thought it was rude, etc., but she doesn’t get it or doesn’t care. I guess I should remember that the next time I think about pulling my phone out while out with friends or while in a meeting.

    Great post.

  6. Jaimie Field says

    I have to admit that sometimes, in the week that I have had my new phone, I have been tempted to do so. But I do not want to be a hypocrite.

    Thanks for the comment, Kevin.

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