Mobile Phone Etiquette Disconnect
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jul 07 23:00:00 GMT 2004

The famous saying claims "we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions." Perhaps that's most noticeable in how we feel about mobile phone etiquette.


There are plenty of stories about just how fed up people are with other mobile phone users' etiquette. The stories go on and on. People who let their phones ring in restaurants, theaters or business meetings. People who loudly discuss very personal issues over their phone while strangers are around them. People who spend all their time in the presence of friends paying more attention to those at the other end of their mobile phone (whether by voice or by text). By now, everyone knows that mobile phone etiquette is a real problem... when it's someone else using the phone. Knowing all this, very few people seem to turn the mirror on themselves.

A new study by Sprint suggests just how big this disconnect is. Similar to the way that everyone considers themselves an above average driver, approximately 97% of mobile phone users classify their own use as "very courteous" or "somewhat courteous" while 80% feel that others are less courteous in how they use mobile phones than they were five years ago. Just imagine how people would respond when asked about their ability to drive while using a mobile phone.

Still, the results of the study may not be as ridiculous as they sound. First off, assuming the numbers in the study are accurate, take a hypothetical movie theater situation. 97% of theater-goers may, indeed, be perfectly courteous, shutting off their phones or placing them on vibrate. It's those three other flagrantly discourteous users who ruin it for everyone else. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. Most users probably are careful and courteous, while a few don't realize when they're being discourteous and a tiny percentage simply don't care. This can be seen more accurately when the study asked people what they really do with their ringer in a public place: 34% go with vibrate, 18% turn it off, 11% lower ring volume and 9% silence the ringer -- which leaves 28% who make no changes. So, if 3% admit they're not particularly courteous, that leaves 25% of people who claim they're courteous, but still leave their ringers blaring away in public situations. It's those 25% who need a lesson in phone manners -- which isn't quite as awful as the study originally makes it sound.