It’s hard to dispute the fact that smartphones and tablets have become an essential part of our increasingly connected daily lives. However, this doesn’t give any of us an excuse to let our mobile devices rule our lives and forget some basic aspects of decency and manners.
Don’t get me wrong, smartphones and tablets are wonderful devices, but the way most of us use them willy nilly without regard for those around us is troubling.
Here’s a list of 10 things that you really shouldn’t do with your mobile devices in public. From listening to music loudly in public to using your smartphone in the cinema and quite a few things in between, this list is a catalog of some of the things you and I really shouldn’t be doing with our smartphones.
None of us are perfect, and I’m guilty of some of these as well, but what is life if not a process of gradual self-improvement?
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1. Don’t blast music or play games loudly in public
There are precious few things more annoying in life than trying to have a meal at a restaurant and having the people at the next table over listening to music loudly using their mobile devices.
Sure, it’s great that we can now carry around a lot of music with us, but nobody is interested in how much you love Adele and want to listen to her music while eating. Neither is anyone interested in how highly you’re scoring on Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga or whatever.
If you really have to listen to music or need audio in whatever game you’re playing, please do the world a favor and get a pair of headphones or earphones.
Not only will it stop the people around you from getting very annoyed, but it’ll probably also give you better audio quality and let you listen to the finer details in whatever you’re listening to. It’s a win-win situation.
2. Don’t record performances with your mobile device
That may seem like I’m painting with a bit of a wide brush, so let me clarify: you’re not the only person in attendance who paid for tickets, so please don’t take it upon yourself to block the view of others by hoisting your huge tablet or smartphone up into the air to record the performance.Not only are you blocking someone else’s view, it’s also a pretty big distraction that can, and will, adversely impact other people’s enjoyment of the show.
And, really, what is it that you’re trying to achieve by recording the show? If you absolutely have to record, say if a family member is involved in the performance, try and find an angle a bit off to the side that won’t block other audience members.
If it’s just some concert or other, just refrain: unless you’re using really good equipment, your videos will probably turn out really poor, and nobody really cares about low-quality videos. Leave the documentation to the experts, and enjoy the show with your own eyes and ears.
3. Don’t prioritize smartphone over your friends
Just because you get a notification on your device saying that you have a new message or email doesn’t mean that you immediately have to answer it.
If you’re expecting something important, sure, excuse yourself while you reply to the message or email, and do it quickly. If not, just leave the messages for later and focus on the here and now. You’re with people you care for, aren’t you?
Snubbing your colleagues, friends or, even worse, date to reply to a text message or send an email is really poor form, and is very disrespectful to the people you’re with.If they’ve made the effort to disconnect from their digital lives for a moment in order to spend time with you — no matter the reason — then the least you could do is do the same.
And, no, don’t even try to reply a text under the table: it’s even more annoying and disrespectful.
4. Don’t tweet and drive (or walk)
Okay, you might be able to get away with scrolling through your Twitter or Facebook newsfeeds while walking if you’re particularly good at multitasking, but honestly, I’d just recommend that you not do it, as you can quickly lose track of your surroundings, bump into people and possibly even step into traffic.
Driving is a whole other matter, of course, and I don’t think there’s any reasonable justification for doing that while driving. It’s not really a sign of poor etiquette as it is just an incredibly dangerous thing to do.
If it’s really that important, there’s no harm in pulling to the side of the road — if you’re driving — or taking advantage of some shade to reply to text messages, or tweets, or take a call.
If it’s not important enough for that, then it can wait. Focus on the task at hand, and get to your tweets or messages when it’s safe to do so. You’re not that pressed for time, are you?
5. Don’t use your smartphone in the cinema
People have been complaining about this forever, but it really doesn’t look like it’s going to stop. Not only do people still talk on the phone during movies, but we now get people who text endlessly — without switching their phone to silent, no less — through the entirety of a film and people who spend half the film staring at their smartphone looking up some obscure factoid or bombarding social media with their thoughts on the film.
As far as I’m concerned, going to a cinema is about an immersive, all-encompassing experience. This is cheapened by spending half of the movie’s running time staring at your mobile device.
Not only are you not enjoying the film to the fullest, but you’re also probably annoying the people around you with the off-putting glow of light coming from your smartphone or tablet. Next time, try keeping your smartphone in your pocket and pay attention to the film: old school, I know, but who knows, you might actually enjoy it.
6. Don’t poke your nose into friends’ photos and apps
This is happening way too often: you hand your smartphone to a friend for some reason or another, and they immediately start swiping through your photo gallery and, god forbid, maybe even decide to open up your Facebook. I really don’t know why people do this, but if you’re one of these people: please stop.
I know, we’re probably constantly being monitored by some government agency or another, but that isn’t an excuse to abuse someone’s trust in you by digging through their messages or photos.
The only thing worse than taking advantage of that sort of situation is just not asking in the first place. The former situation is rude, but poking your nose into someone’s personal data without permission is just borderline unforgivable. Sure, "sharing is caring" and all that, but sharing requires consent, remember? If you have a burning question that you need answering, why not just ask your friend straight up?
7. Don’t hog public charging stations
I know, public charging stations are there to be used, but they’re not there for you to hog and charge your phone up to the brim. You’re not the only person with crappy battery life, so do take into consideration the fact that there are other people who also need to charge their phones.
Unless you’re going to be on the road for a long while, you’re probably going to be able to charge your device when you get to your destination, so all you really need is to charge your device up just enough to get you to wherever you need to go.
Here in Malaysia, it’s all too common to have some of the outlets at these stations not work, so it’s even more important that you not hog the working outlets and let everyone charge their devices up.
And if you still have a reasonable amount of battery life left, just let others — who may have more pressing needs for battery life — charge their devices instead.
8. Don’t take photos indiscriminately
Sure, smartphones have made photography incredibly convenient, but that’s all the more reason to learn to use discretion when taking photos and videos.
You’re not the paparazzi, do you really need to take photos of anything and everything you see? No, not really. Unless your life is really all that interesting, and it probably isn’t, there’s really no reason for you to keep snapping photos endlessly. This applies double when you’re out and about with other people.
If you’re having dinner, don’t kill the mood by pulling your phone out to snap a ton of photos of your and everyone else’s meal. And if you’re at an event or at a party, please exercise discretion and don’t just snap, upload and tag anything and everything you see. As quaint as this may seem, not everyone wants their every move broadcast onto social media, you know.
9. Don’t hold up the line at a restaurant
Picture this: you’re standing in line at a Starbucks, waiting to order, but the line is moving incredibly slow for some reason. You peek past the people in front of you and you see someone busy checking their smartphone, or maybe on the phone when they’re supposed to be ordering. This is, as you can imagine, really rude.
Not only does it slow everyone else down, but it also disrespects the staff that are serving customers and taking orders.
It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing: answering an email, replying a text or, god forbid, Instagramming the restaurant menu. You can, and should, set all that aside; make your order and move aside to let the person next in line make their order. Reply that text once you’re seated, and if you just have to Instagram that menu, do it when there’s a lull in the number of customers.
This applies to most lines, really, but it’s really annoying when it happens at restaurants.
10. Don’t shout into your smartphone
Okay, this is a gripe that’s been around forever, but it’s particularly pertinent in this day and age: the microphones we get on smartphones these days are so much better than what we used to get back in the earlier days of mobile phones, with all manner of fancy noise-canceling technologies, and network coverage is also a lot better too.
Unless you happen to be taking calls in the middle of a warzone, there’s no real reason to shout when you’re on the phone these days.
Shouting is really annoying, and makes you come across as more than a bit inconsiderate. Not only will the person on the other end have his or her ears blown off, but your loud voice will also annoy and potentially even disrupt the people around you.
Turn the volume down a little bit, it’ll help in the long run.