Talking on the phone while driving; checking Facebook at the dinner table; taking pictures of everything. We’re all annoying someone with the way we use our phones.
Last week we asked you what annoys you most about how people use their smartphones. Many of you shared your pet peeves, but just as often you’d admit you’re also guilty of doing these annoying things. It’s impossible to make hard rules about phone etiquette, since you might find annoying what I find perfectly acceptable, but at the very least, it’s worthwhile to know that some people might be annoyed by your behavior.
In this post, we’re rounding up the most common, most annoying smartphone habits, offering some quick fixes, then providing a longer list of other common complaints you may want to keep in mind next time you reach for your phone.
Problem: The Multi-Tasking Driver
Driving and using a phone is illegal in most states, but that doesn’t stop people from doing it. Driving and talking (or texting) is so dangerous, the US government has an official site filled with horrifying statistics like, “Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.” Adventure! puts the problem bluntly:
Driving while using a cellphone. Dangerous, stupid, illegal in a lot of places (because it’s dangerous and stupid), and yet people feel the need to be glued to their phones while piloting a vehicle that can kill people if you take your attention away for even a moment.
Solution: Remove the Temptation
When we talked about how to drive safely while using your cell phone, we emphasized that the only real way to use a cell phone safely in your car is to not use it all. That’s easier said than done for some people. If your willpower for blocking out a cell phone ring is weak, silence your phone before you get in the car so you’re not distracted by it.
For those who absolutely must answer their phones, your best bet is to grab a bluetooth headset for hands-free use (here are five good ones to get you started). If your phone also doubles as a GPS and music player, you can integrate your phone into your car for easy access, voice control, and music playing. Photo by eyeliam.
Problem: The Smartphone Addict
Ever since the game Snake first arrived on Nokia phones, cries of fellow diners everywhere have echoed, “Put your phone away while we’re eating!” Smartphones have made things worse. You feel the urge to grab your phone to check social networks, texts, phone calls, or even play a game while you’re in public with friends. Reader Ranae780 is particularly peeved with her boyfriend:
For me, it’s being on the phone while you’re out to dinner or something with a partner or friend. My boyfriend is the worst for this, and it’s seriously annoying. Not to mention embarrassing. “Yes, people looking on, he would rather spend his time looking at shit on his phone or talking to someone then talking to me while we sit here having a drink and some dinner.”
Solution 1: The Crossword Rule
In Real Simple’s Tech Etiquette Manual, author Will Schwalbe suggests that if you wouldn’t work on a crossword puzzle in a situation, then it’s probably not a good time to dawdle away on your smartphone. You can break the rule for minor things like a call or text, but as a guide to knowing when it’s okay to sit around and play a game or check Facebook, the crossword rule is a handy reminder. Essentially, if someone is in front of you and wants your attention, it’s probably not the best time to tap away on your phone.
Solution 2: Wean Yourself Away
Sometimes, your smartphone addiction is just that: an addiction. You should treat it like any other addiction and wean yourself off of it. We’ve talked about doing this by outlining your own rules of use (no phone usage at social events, no answering calls on a date, or no smartphone usage during short-term interactions), and disabling alerts.
If you’re struggling to unhinge your smartphone addiction, you can also forceably block social networks during certain times of the day so you can reclaim your attention span and enjoy the moment. Photo by John.
Problem: The Poorly Timed Smartphone Photographer
Most people aren’t annoyed if you snap a picture or two your their cell phone. That changes when you ignore what’s going on in front of you to edit, annotate, crop, filter, and post that picture to a social network. Sure, sometimes a picture needs to go up in the heat of the moment, but most times it’s okay to wait a few minutes until you’re alone. Latergram, anyone? Cristabel LeBlanc doesn’t the amount of time people waste on it:
People take pictures with their phones while hanging out with others, no problem. When they then choose to take another 15 minutes to edit, re-edit, post to instagram, Facebook and twitter, etc.
Solution: Take the Picture Now; Edit and Upload Later
This solution is pretty simple. If you’re in a situation where you’re interacting with people, say, at dinner, or a concert, feel free to take as many photos as you want. But when you’re done, hold off on the editing, cropping, and sharing until after the event. Photo by Chris Radcliff.
Problem: The World Is Your Phone Booth
We’ve all been in this circumstance: you get a call when you’re in the middle of hanging out with someone, and you need to make the choice as to whether to answer or let it go to voicemail.
The issue only gets worse when that annoying someone goes on to talk loudly it public spaces, hold business conversations in the bathroom, or talk about his breakup on the bus. Josh Smith’s issue is the weirdness of one-sided conversation:
I most dislike the uncomfortably high volume at which people talk on their phones in public. There is something physiologically annoying about being able to hear one side of a conversation and the loud cell phone talker exacerbate this by including everyone around them in that one half of a conversation.
Solution: Step Away from Groups of People or Respond Later
Just because you don’t care if your conversation remains private doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear it. The basic rule of thumb here is pretty simple: if you’re going to talk on the phone in a public spot, step away from other people. Always. When you take that call, make sure you excuse yourself politely.
If you’re stuck in a small public space, like a bus, try and keep the conversation as short as possible, and speak at a normal volume. The same goes for any other small room you might find yourself in.
And don’t talk on the phone in a public restroom. No excuses—just don’t do it. Photo by Lee Brimelow.
Problem: Texting vs. Phone Call
This is an interesting two sided annoyance. On one end, the phone-haters among you are annoyed when someone calls you when a text message would suffice. Others are just as annoyed when a text message back-and-forth goes on too long and a call would have solved a problem in 30 seconds. Cait98 prefers the phone call:
Texting can be great for making plans or for checking in when running late, but when it’s like 50 msgs back and forth of “I don’t know, where do you want to go?” Shit, just call so we can figure this out.
I am annoyed by people who use their phones to call me. Of course, I understand that sometimes you may HAVE to initiate a phone call, or you WANT to speak with a certain person. But when it’s all about delivering a short message, or asking a short question, you have access to e-mail, Gtalk, Facebook chat, Yahoo Messenger, SMS, etc. You can reach mostly everybody on any of those.
Solution: The Response Time Test
In most cases, choosing between a call and a text depends a lot on your history with a person. For many, the two forms of communication mean different things: a call usually means you’re looking for an immediate response. A text message is often seen as more passive, and it’s acceptable if it gets ignored for a while. This isn’t a hard and fast rule by any means, and your previous interactions with people should help define how they prefer contact.
So, ask yourself, how quickly do I want a response? If you’re making plans for dinner right this second, you need a response to a question, or anything else right now, a phone call is the preferred way to go. If time isn’t a big deal, and the response is likely just a couple sentences, a text message is fine. Photo by Joi Ito.
What You Said: More of Your Biggest Annoyances
As many of you noted, a number of the biggest cell phone annoyances don’t have a solutions. With that in mind, we’ll turn the mic over to you so you can at least know when you’re probably annoying people with your cell phone usage. Photo by Christopher.
The Checkout Chatterbox
Nobody likes the person using their cell phone in the checkout lane (or worse, when they’re the person operating the checkout lane). Being on the receiving end of these moments, reader PamalaW80 is justifiably annoyed and points out how talking on your phone in line inconveniences pretty much everyone:
As a Subway employee it has to be the person who doesn’t get off the phone while in line. It’s my job to ask you anywhere from seven to ten questions to get you through the line. If you’re paying attention and not on your phone you should get through line within two minutes (after you reach the counter) no matter how busy we are.
The Loud Typer
People who text and have their sound on. Beep beep beep beep click click click. Turn your sound off!! Plus it will increase your battery life.
The Movie Theater Ringtone
You know that person who doesn’t silence their phone in the movie theater and ruins the movie for everyone? Reader sums up the problem well:
You would think by now we would have come up with some kind of etiquette system. Why must I keep getting interrupted in the theater by some person who has to be that asshole. I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies and not have a phone interrupt it.
I find it so irritating when someone is coming towards you, head down, middle of the pavement, texting away with complete disregard for everyone else, and making everyone move out of the way for them. Don’t complain when someone (and it will happen eventually) walks into you and your phone smashes on the concrete.
All of these annoyances boil down to one simple thing: people are annoyed when others draw attention to the fact they’re on a cell phone. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t want to annoy those around you, make a mental note of the above annoyances, and try being polite whenever you can.