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Cell Phone Courtesy: The Rules of Communicating in the Digital Age

In the fast-paced, ever-developing digital age, it can be hard to adapt to different tech-centered methods of communication. Our cell phones are great—they help us stay connected, are great in emergencies, and get us where we need to go, among so many other things. In a way, our cell phones become little pieces of us. We have our pictures, social media apps, texts to loved ones, notes, health information, financial information, and so much more all stored on our devices. However, because we are so attached to them, cell phone etiquette can sometimes get forgotten. 

We often pull out our phones when we feel awkward and uncomfortable, even if it isn’t always appropriate. We sometimes send a text message or answer emails on our phone mid-conversation. We oftentimes scroll through social media when we are at gatherings like a party or a work event. We are even guilty of being on our phones during important life events like graduation ceremonies, weddings, or even funerals. It can become habit to pull your phone out in all the little pockets of downtime you have throughout the day.

While none of these things are inherently bad, the overall message they convey is that our time is being divided unequally with more attention and focus being given to our devices. In social settings, try not to dwell on how others are practicing cell phone courtesy—in this day and age, everyone gets distracted by their cell phone. In fact, it’s more socially acceptable than ever to have your phone out and within reach at all times and most of the time people around you are in the same boat. Although getting everyone to practice good habits is a goal, the ultimate goal of cell phone courtesy is to practice for you. How can you personally benefit from cell phone courtesy?

Putting your phone away during important life events helps you to feel more fulfilled and appreciative of the moment. Not scrolling through social media during lunch with a friend helps you to remain attentive and receptive to the conversation. Not gravitating to your phone during a work party (even though it may be awkward!) encourages you to seek connection and friendship in unexpected ways. Not taking a serious phone call in a crowded place helps you to give the conversation the respect and distraction-free reflection it deserves. Not being “plugged in” during a walk helps you to be fully in tune with nature and its beauty.

Actively practicing these courtesy rules sets us apart from the crowd. You appear more attentive, respectful, and focused than those who use their phones as a safety net. By actively choosing not to gravitate to your phone during all the little moments in your day, you are choosing to be more present in every situation. We cannot change the world all at once when it comes to technology and its developing rules, but we can make small decisions regarding our cell phone usage that make us more mindful throughout our day. It starts with you! You can be the change!

Emma Clifton