It’s hard to believe that cellphones have only been mainstream for around 20 years isn’t it?  They play such a large role in our lives nowadays, it seems like they have been around forever.  Imagine what it would be like if our long lost ancestors were looking down on us.  Sometimes I think that they might think that the government had control of us all, and we had to carry little devices around so we could be monitored!

Well, thankfully that’s to the case, but have cellphones changed our lives for better or worse?

I had a post come up in my Facebook feed recently that was [supposedly] written by a famous actor who had lost his wife.  It was about losing someone you love and how difficult it is.  It was beautifully written, but at the end he said, “So, put your cellphones down, because when you look up from them, the person you love will be gone”.

I immediately thought to myself, “Oh man, why did he have to go and ruin that beautiful post by putting in the line about cellphones!”.  Yes, you read that correctly … ruined it.  You see, although I realize fully that no one is perfect, I abhor judgement and shaming of any kind, and I’m seeing more and more social media posts that are trying to make cellphone users feel ashamed of how and why they are using them.

 

The cellphone phenomenon is relatively new.  Here’s a great article by Tech-FAQ The History of Cell Phones.  It’s really quite fascinating technology.  Although the world’s first cellphone was released in 1983, and cellphone technology was discovered as far back as the early 1900s, cellphones really only became mainstream to the masses around the mid-1990’s, and as a society we’re still learning how to navigate their usage.  But, here’s the thing.  Although cellphones pose a challenge for employers, schools, law enforcement, the list goes on, the reality is that they are here to stay, and we have to learn to live with them.

I’m certain of two things.  I do think that as a society we have an accelerating challenge surrounding the use of electronics, and there should be rules of safety and etiquette in place.

BUT

I don’t think the answer is to criticize anyone with a cellphone in hand, and sadly, I fear there is a growing trend toward doing this.

So, without judgement or criticism, here’s my two personal lists of Do’s and Don’ts ……….

Regarding respectful and safe cellphone use:

Do

  • Enjoy the benefits of a cellphone; they can make our lives easier and they can even be fun, and there’s no shame in enjoying the fruits of our world’s technological advancement; and, alternatively, if you are a  conscientious abstainer and don’t feel the need to own a cellphone, feel good about that decision too.
  • Be mindful about how you want to use your phone; don’t just jump on the bandwagon.  Is it a business tool for you, a necessity, is it for fun or safety?  Make some conscious decisions about what is important to you in cellphone use, and then if your usage is challenged, you can feel good about why and how you are using it.
  • Remember that human interaction is just as important as electronic connection, and make sure you are still making time to experience relationships face to face.
  • Put your phone away sometimes … on purpose.  Remember the good old days when we could hide away to gather our thoughts or refuel and nobody could reach us?  Set aside some time to disconnect even if it is just an hour a day; let’s call it cellphone meditation!

How to Use Your Cellphone the Right Way

Don’t

  • Phone, text or play … and drive.  It is unbelievably ironic that cell phones were originally developed for use in vehicles, but we’ve learned the hard way that they should be out of sight and out of mind as soon as operating a motor vehicle enters the picture.  One of the best videos I have seen that depicts the horror and devastation that distracted driving can cause, due to cellphone use, is in this BBC article about a truck driver who killed a whole family because he glanced at his cellphone while driving:  Lorry Driver Jailed Over Four-Death Crash.
  • Expect others to wait for you to finish a text or a call (or even a game!).  This is especially true with appointments and in lineups for cashiers, at the bank, at a drive through, you name it.  Everybody’s time is so very important to them, and we just don’t have any right to steal it.
  • Have a private conversation or have your phone on speaker in a public area, particularly one that is quiet.  This can be not only annoying, but also quite embarrassing for others to hear details of a conversation that has nothing to do with them.  Duck out of the room to a private space, or limit your use to quick, emergency calls only.
  • Forget to turn your phone off, or turn the volume down at movie theatres, plays, lectures, seminars, even meetings.  There’s nothing worse than getting absorbed in an ultra-exciting plot line (that happens to me all the time at meetings!) only to have your reverie interrupted by do do do do, do do do do, do do do, do do.  Can you guess which ringtone that was!!  Hint:  It’s from one of my favourite movies!

How to Use Your Cellphone the Right Way

Regarding our thoughts surrounding cellphone use:

Do

  • Remember that like anything else, how a person uses their cellphone is their own business, and they have a right to use it however they choose as long as it is within the law.
  • Use your compassionate side.  There are many people in the world that are lonely, shut in,  or ill, and their cellphone represents a link to the outside world that many of us take for granted.
  • Recognize that cellphones are largely replacing cameras.  Photographs are an art form, and phone technology has become so advanced that they take pretty great pics!  So, if we don’t criticize people with cameras, we shouldn’t be criticizing those who use their phones to take pictures.

How to Use Your Cellphone the Right Way

Don’t

  • Criticize someone who always seems to have their phone close to them.  They may have a need to connect that you know nothing about – it could even be life and death.
  • Forget that a cellphone is a magazine, a book, even a textbook.  It’s quite acceptable for people to companionably sit together and read the newspaper or even a book.  Is it so bad just because there are no soft pages?  Many of the behaviours we observe in cellphone use are the same as always, they’re just in different packaging.
  • Nag (unless, of course, it is in the name of guiding your children!)  The reality is that phone-shaming is not going to change a thing, and is only going to create hard and bitter feelings.  Like anything else in life, if people are disrespectful or unsafe with their phone usage, they will learn organically by the consequences that result, that their actions are not appreciated, and it’s not up to everyone else to lead the charge in telling them.   In fact, many police departments are beginning to act.  Here’s a great YouTube video that’s funny …. but also a little scary Texting While Walking Accidents.

Cellphone use is a very complicated issue.  Just remember it is a very personal decision about how anyone uses their cellphone, so give it some thought … and use it safely.