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No cell phones


SUNNYVALE, CA, United States – Recent studies show that smartphones are almost at about 50% of all phones sold. Also, we’re more connected than ever before with our entire rolodex at our disposal and contacts available via text messaging, Facebook and on Twitter.

Have we become a society of rude people? How do the rules of etiquette apply to the smartphone era?

Dos and Don’ts of mobile etiquette.

  1. Do put your phone away during an important conversation.
  2. Do schedule some offline time to connect with your family on a daily basis.
  3. Don’t be sloppy – check your outgoing messages for misspellings and out-of-context mistakes.
  4. Do remember to turn off your ringer when in a quiet situation. 
  5. Do respect how others want to get ahold of you – check your voicemails!
  6. Don’t jump on others when they misspell a message composed on their phone. Be nice.

Treat face to face experiences as your most important

What’s the most common etiquette sin committed by smartphones owners? To find out, I asked Mindy Lockard, an etiquette expert and consultant. The most abused mistake is leaving your phone on the table during a meal or meeting.

“It’s a matter of priorities”, Lockard says, “when you have your phone on the table you’re communicating to the person in front of you that they are important, until something more important, whether it’s a text message or a Twitter notification, comes up on your phone.”

The key message here is – it’s not acceptable to have your phone visible during a meeting or shared meal, unless in a rare case where you absolutely can’t miss a call (think expectant Dad waiting to hear from his wife who may go into labor at any second).

According to Lockard, you’re constantly communicating your priorities, even when you think the person doesn’t mind, they likely do.

Etiquette rules haven’t been written, yet.

The smartphone era has drastically changed the rules when it comes to etiquette and customs. Lockard said 10 years ago, there was a curriculum for etiquette for landlines which covered how to leave voicemails, customs on calling people back and so forth. Today, with mobile phones, these rules are foreign and don’t apply.

Coffee and phones

For example, it’s considered rude in some circles to call someone on their mobile phone, without first asking permission or arranging a call time prior. The ‘norm’ nowadays is to use email or text messaging to ask when a good time to ring your friends’ phone.

I then asked Lockard about voicemail. She laughed and said voicemail is the one technology that bridges the traditional phones and newer mobile based communications.  “It’s important to return voicemails!”, even if you’re not a fan of checking your messages. 

Lockard went on to say that it’s a matter of generational differences. Older people tend to leave voicemails and young people are more likely to text. It’s important to respect how people want to communicate with you.  In regards to etiquette, try to return a voicemail within 24 hours of receiving it.

We’re all victims of autocorrect!

With touch-typing and autocorrect, the intent is to help us finish our words more quickly. Algorithms guess what we’re trying to say. However, we all make mistakes. What are we supposed to do when we send a message that sounds odd or contains mistakes?


Lockard uses an example where she was trying to send an email to a co-worker to say “I’m at my desk”, but instead, she sent “I ate my desk”. 

What are you supposed to do when you fall victim to autocorrect? If you’re concerned about your personal brand, Lockard recommends sending a quick apology message to help fix the mistake.  

This is especially important in situations where our professional and personal contact mix on our phones. You may send a message to a co-worker or manager that’s completely off and can be taken wrong. We must always be aware of how we’re portraying themselves.

And lastly, Lockard says, “A quick proof-read of your outgoing messages can save you a lot of trouble in the end”.

On the flip side, what happens when you notice a misspelling from a friend or colleague. Do you tease them and point it out?  No! It’s best to be kinds and gracious to people. 

Remember when your Mom used to say “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”?  That rule applies in the smartphone world and on social media today.

Careful when uploading photos online

With amazing cameras in our pocket, we’ve become a nation of uploaders. We love snapping photos and instantly uploading them to Facebook or Twitter. However, what happens when others are in your photos? This is even more applicable with taking photos of  children.

“It’s not ok to assume the right to tell someone else’s story”, says Lockard. With photo tagging on Facebook and other ways of identifying faces in photos, be careful when uploading photos that include others. If you’re following etiquette best practices, ask those you’re around if it’s ok to Facebook photos you take. It’s a nice expression of respect to them.

Photo credits: MarkWallace and Yulia