Observations: Miss Susan’s 5 Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette


I begin this column with the saying used at one time or another by famous moms throughout history: “Do as I say, not as I do.”

It seems that we have come to an era where no one can go two minutes without looking at their cell phone. Well, it only seems like two minutes when I am trying to run a meeting at the office. The actual number is 12 minutes. Yes, Americans look at their phones on an average of every 12 minutes. The number goes down if you are younger and up if you are older.

A panic immediately sets in as you walk in the grocery store, maneuvering the cart through the lobby, as you suddenly realize that you have left your phone in the car. Worse yet, you may have left it on the kitchen counter at home, right where you sat and made the list.

Oh, and if said list was on your phone, well, now you are really in a mess. Now the dilemma: Can you do this on your own or do you just go back home and get the phone and start all over again? How in the world did we ever do grocery shopping before cell phones?

Better yet, how did we do anything before cell phones? We need them for everything. It is our calendar, our clock, our timer, our reminder. It’s our day-planner, our notebook, our camera, our step-counter (still haven’t figured out why we now need to count our steps and why anyone thinks I care about how many steps they took today — oh, no, I’m going to pay for that remark as my close friends will now make it their mission in life to tell me how many steps they took every day just to get under my skin.)

We connect with friends, family and even complete strangers on social media, we check our e-mail, we send messages, we make reservations, we get the news, we do our banking, we can watch a movie and, did I mention, we can even make a phone call on it?

So with the summer season almost upon us, bringing everyone out of hibernation, I would like to share Miss Susan’s 5 Rules of Cell Phone Etiquette.

• No phones at the dinner table. Enjoy your food and enjoy the company of the people you are dining with. Remember a little thing called “dinner conversation.” How was your day, dear? Great. How was yours?

Many years ago, when our kids were tweens and at that time in their lives mom and dad were Public Enemy No. 1, I read a little snippet about something called high/low as a way of getting your children to give you an inkling of what was going on in their lives.

Every person sitting at the dinner table took a turn at saying what was the best thing that happened and what was the worst thing that happened to them on that day. A little awkward the first few times we did it, but we kept at it and after a while, everyone looked forward to it. It was a very simple thing that brought our family closer together.

• Please do not video every song when you are sitting in front of me at a concert this summer. Social media studies have shown that the perfect video should only be about 30 seconds long, which is the length of our now-gnat-like attention spans.

Last year, I had third-row seats to an event, only to have the phone of the person in front of me poised right at my eye level for the entire evening, instead of the lead singer. I went all the way to another country a few years ago to a concert, only to have the woman in front of me Facetime her daughter the entire concert. I spent the entire night watching a teenage girl jump up and down in her living room.

Please be considerate to the people behind you. Spend your time enjoying the concert instead of attempting to record every moment.

• Please don’t talk on your phone and drive, and for goodness sake, don’t text and drive. Not only is it illegal, it is also dangerous. The National Safety Council reports that 1.6 million accidents in the U.S. are related to cell phone use, and 1 out of every 4 accidents are from texting and driving. We have all done it. Refer back to my very first sentence.

• Emojis — Don’t even get me started on this word. Yes, I am the only person in the universe that does not use emojis. So, first we needed to text each other because it was faster than an actual phone call. Maybe that was because everyone screens their calls now, so no one actually answers their phone. Then we started abbreviating words and a whole text-talk vocabulary was created, better known as Internet acronyms. LOL. Then we were too lazy to even do that, so someone invented a type of computer hieroglyphics.

Enter, the emoji. Why spend time calling a person you have not spoken to in six months, when just a smiley-face will do? Again, we are back to that word: conversation. What has happened to us?

• I beg of you to not look at your phone in the movie theatre. The light from it is very distracting. You paid money to watch a great movie, how about actually watching it instead of texting with your friends? The same goes for when you are at your children’s ballgames and school events.

I see this happening more and more. Nothing is more important than them. Relax for a few and just enjoy life.

As Americans, we spend an average of three hours a day looking at our cell phones, and that number will only keep going up. We look at our phone 120 times a day, and many teens look at their phone 300 times a day. By 2020, predictions indicate that we will spend more time on our phones than watching TV. Then we sit back at the end of the day and scratch our heads wondering why we can’t get anything done…