Smartphone etiquette tips for any context

Although smartphones and mobile devices have become so ubiquitous it can be hard to remember a time without them, they are still relatively new features of modern life. While many people keep their smartphones handy at all times, not everyone may be aware that new social standards and courtesies have evolved around these devices and their use. It is common to see people using them throughout the day, even when it may not seem appropriate for them to be doing so. As such, it is important to be able to understand what is and isn’t appropriate in terms of cell phone usage during different situations — for some scenarios it may even be seen as disrespectful. 

General mobile phone etiquette.

There are specific etiquette points that one should keep in mind for certain social situations, such as introducing yourself, not interrupting, and saying please and thank you. However, there are also more generalized rules that should be followed in regard to cell phone use. Here are some universal cell phone etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Although it may be tempting, avoid texting during face-to-face conversations;

  • Avoid accepting calls when you are in the middle of a face-to-face conversation;

  • Avoid discussing personal topics in an area where others may hear you;

  • Avoid using inappropriate pictures for a person’s contact photo;

  • Be aware of the delay between when you speak and when the other person hears it;

  • Be mindful about what you tag people in on Facebook;

  • Don’t light up your screen in a dark theater;

  • Don’t talk/text and drive;

  • Use your Call Filter app for suspicious calls, but avoid using it for friends and family;

  • End the continuing game of phone tag after 4 attempts of reaching out to an individual;

  • Keep a distance of at least 10 feet from the nearest person when talking on the phone;

  • Put your phone on silent mode in theaters, restaurants, plays, performances, and any other group setting where a ring tone may be bothersome;

  • Refrain from blaming the other person if there is a dropped call;

  • Speak in a soft tone when taking calls in public;

  • Try not to look things up (“fact check”) during a conversation, unless you are asked to.

Etiquette for cell phones on dates.

Dating, in general, can be stressful. Individuals may feel the need to impress their date and present themselves well, especially during the early stages of the relationship. Some may partake in phubbing, which is when an individual begins to pay less attention to someone who is talking and more attention to their phone instead — this may be because of nerves, boredom, or out of habit. While it may not be necessary to completely disregard using your phone at any time while on a date, it is important that you be mindful of how you do so. Here are a few tips for proper date night phone etiquette: 

  • Ask your date if they would be bothered by you taking pictures of the food, scenery, etc;

  • Don't continuously show them things you've found on your phone. One or two items may be alright, however, refrain from showing them your entire social media feed, even if you find the content funny;

  • If able to, you should both put your phones away in your bag or pocket;

  • Let your date know ahead of time if you’re expecting an important phone call at any point during your time together;

  • Refrain from nervously going onto your phone;

  • Set your phone on silent.

Etiquette for cell phones at work.

Prior to following any workplace cell phone etiquette advice, one should first review their specific workplace’s phone policy — this policy should take precedence over any outside advice that is given. Generally speaking, some businesses are becoming more accepting of phones in offices, being more aware that it is possible to maintain workplace productivity in an era of smartphones — as “convenience is a crucial aspect that all organizations and firms look to obtain for their employees. Smartphones provide the ability for employees and clients to communicate and contact one another quickly and efficiently.” 

If you are a part of a business that allows you to use your phones, it is important to follow proper cell phone workplace etiquette to help reduce the chances of you getting these privileges taken away. 

  • Be aware of your ringtone. If you work at a business that requires you to answer your cell phone often you may want to download a ringtone that sounds professional (no high pitches, isn’t too loud, no obnoxious sounds, no profanity, etc);

  • Don’t look at your phone during meetings;

  • Don’t place your phone on your lap;

  • Focus on the person that should have your attention i.e. customer, client, coworker, boss, etc;

  • Keep your personal calls private;

  • Keep your phone out of sight;

  • Don’t engage in arguments over the phone while at work;

  • Silence your device.

Etiquette for cell phones at professional gatherings.

Just as with informal gatherings such as dates and some workplaces, there are cell phone etiquette tips to keep in mind for professional gatherings such as conferences, training sessions, seminars, product launches, and more: 

  • Don’t take photos unless you’re allowed to;

  • Don’t use your phone as a way to avoid social interactions;

  • Focus on face-to-face networking;

  • Keep your phone on silent;

  • Verbally excuse yourself for important calls when necessary;

  • When you do take photos, turn off your flash as a courtesy to others around you. 

When to not use your cell phone.

In some scenarios, it is unacceptable to use your mobile phone entirely, despite taking the above etiquette tips into consideration. The following list outlines different situations when you'll want to avoid your phone altogether:

  • At movie theaters and other large gatherings of any kind;

  • Attending church;

  • While giving birth;

  • During a job interview;

  • Funerals;

  • When someone is talking to you;

  • While driving;

  • While you’re eating a meal;

  • While you’re studying.

How often you use your cell phone is entirely up to you. However, when doing so, keep in mind that there is a time and place for it. By following the above cell phone etiquette guidelines, you can ensure you're not being disrespectful or breaking any rules and are mindful of those around you.

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