14 Jul 2015

Talk Nice: National Cell Phone Courtesy Month

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Fifteen years ago, they were creeping in. Now, they are ubiquitous. Cell phones are so common these days that they are like a bodily limb without which we feel disconnected from our personal and professional contacts. Pagers were one thing, but we couldn’t talk with them, and most people didn’t have one anyway. Nowadays it is rare that any adult, much less a preteen, doesn’t have their own cell phone, if not more than one. Yet our culture is still not used to the cell phone’s penetration into its social fabric. We do not have clear boundaries¬† on cell phone¬†use niceties, and consequently, the constant interruptions affect our relationships.

Due to the need for some ground rule etiquette, National Cell Phone Courtesy Month was established for July by author and etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore in 2002. And that was before smart phones, so now there’s even more of a need to give some guidelines.

If you look up this topic, you’ll see many sites offering the following guidelines: Be all there; keep it private (don’t “cell yell”); place phone on silent while in a meeting; alert others if you’re expecting an emergency call, and step out of the room if you get the call; no texting while driving. Here are some ideas for tapering cell phone usage in order to facilitate these suggestions:

  1. Designate times when you do not carry your cell phone with you, or you at least place it on silent. For example, many couples and families refuse to answer their phones while having dinner, putting children to sleep, or ferrying one another to work or school. This ensures dedicated couplehood and parent-child communication at transitional times of the day.
  1. Limit the interruption time. If you must take a call or answer a text while in the presence of others, limit it less than a minute, or excuse yourself. We don’t want to keep people waiting under non-emergency circumstances.
  1. Dedicate specific times to return phone calls and text messages. It’s okay not to answer all of your phone calls or texts. Instead, you could take 5-20 minutes, 1-3 xs/day, to return calls or texts which were not crucial to answer at the time you received them. If it suits your lifestyle, you can also outsource or delegate these follow-up sessions to an assistant, who can filter for prioritization and liaison with you on replies.

All of the above very much impact Rockaway Care Center residents, especially when receiving visitors. Keep in mind that visiting your loved ones at Rockaway Care Center helps them feel warmed, supported, and remembered. By disallowing, or at least limiting, cell phone usage while being with a Rockaway Care Center resident, you bolster your relationship with them. Here’s to taking cell phone advantages into account with the need for in-person connection.

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