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Mind Your Mobile Manners: Top 10 On-the-Go Blunders

Mind Your Mobile Manners: Top 10 On-the-Go Blunders
Remember when displaying bad manners meant just putting your elbows on the dining table? Today, with all of our mobile devices, we can be rude anywhere at any time.

My bet is, you’ll agree that some of these mobile missteps make you want to slap the perpetrators upside the head. Let's count some of the ways.

Texting or Talking in the Checkout Line

Here’s the epitome of arrogance: people who talk on the phone or tap out text messages while they check out at the grocery store or pay at a drive-through. They make the cashier wait, and hold up the line.

A question for these folks: Are you really so self-absorbed that you don't feel the cold stares from everyone around you?

If you’re close to checkout, hold off taking or making that call, or initiating a chat. It can wait 2 minutes.

Walking While Texting or Emailing

It’s difficult to explain what’s so annoying about watching someone simultaneously walk and text-message or email. Teenagers are notorious for doing this--heck, the other day I even spotted a young man riding a bike while texting. And you've probably seen this unfortunate episode:

When you’re heads-down to such a degree that you can’t even get from the car into a store without tapping away, something is wrong with your idea of being plugged in to the digital world. Get real--as in, lift your head, put down your phone, and notice how the weather is, or what the people around you are doing. The physical world can be interesting, if you can stash your device away long enough to notice it.

Playing Games or Watching Videos With the Speakers On

One of my friends is into psychology, speaks four languages, and is a user experience designer for a logistics software company. In short, he’s a brilliant guy who knows a thing or two about how the brain works. For him, it’s a major offense when people around him are playing games on mobile devices with full speaker sound. “It’s even worse when it’s a game that I play privately, because it triggers a reflexive cognitive response that I am unable to filter out, unlike most sounds,” he says.

I don’t know much about cognitive reflexes, but I definitely consider it audio pollution when my teenage son cranks up the volume to watch YouTube skateboarding videos on the family iPad--the music and the sound of boards crashing onto sidewalks irritates me.

Be cognizant that others around you probably don’t appreciate the sounds emanating from your phone or tablet.

Talking on the Toilet

On the phone on the toilet
Apparently society’s mobile manners have regressed to the point that this one makes the list--several people I queried on the subject said that those who use their phones in the bathroom need to knock it off.

Sitting on a public (or private, for that matter) toilet while talking to someone on your phone is disgusting. Period.

If the conversation you’re having is so important that it can’t wait until you finish your business, should you really be conducting it in the loo? What if the person you’re conversing with figures out where you are?

For everyone's sake, please wait to take or send a call until you are in a more appropriate location.

Being Less Than Fully Present When Talking With Others

Do you ever pretend to be engaged in a conversation with someone when you’re really checking your phone on the sly? That, my friend, is akin to saying to that person, “Someone or something else is more important than whatever you have to say.”

AT&T nailed this idea with a commercial that’s a fantastic example of such rude behavior. It’s the one where the man’s phone is so fast that the woman with him can’t quite catch him checking football play-by-plays at the restaurant.

I know someone who does this all the time--and honestly, it makes me not like him. And I don’t care if a text message or email is "important." If you want to make me believe that I am important, you’ll silence your phone, stow it away, and check it later once our conversation is done.

Snapping, Tagging, and Sharing Photos and Videos of Unsuspecting People

Now that smartphones allow people to carry a camera around with them everywhere they go, the chances that you can digitally catch someone in an unflattering position are greatly increased, compared with even a few years ago. That’s why, for obvious reasons, many locker rooms ban the use of cell phones.

Before you use your mobile device to take photos or video of your best friend who is falling-down drunk, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

And in case you’re not aware, not everybody likes being tagged in photos, even flattering ones.

I was recently on a weekend trip to Florida with a group of friends, and one of them specifically warned the rest of us not to upload any photos of her to Facebook. In order to go along on the beachy retreat, she was blowing off another friend’s bridal shower. If someone tagged her, she would be busted, and her friend would be upset.

Several pinot grigios later, one of the women in the group forgot, and did it anyway. Then we all grabbed our mobile devices to see which one of us could undo the damage the fastest.

Maybe I’ve seen the movie Minority Report too many times, but I get annoyed when people tag me because I’m not a fan of the facial recognition algorithms that Facebook and Google use on their social networks. Such technology is increasingly being employed in public areas such as airports, too. Why would I want to help this creepy technology pick me out of a crowd?

Always ask someone for permission before taking his or her photo and uploading it to a public network.

Being Antisocial With Your Phone

Four people texting
Image: Courtesy of The Technological Citizen
It’s a pathetic scenario: Several people are gathered together, but they’re all glued to their separate devices.

Do not contribute to this unsociable rudeness. And while you’re at it, chastise the people you are with if they do it.

At home, be smart and have a “No devices at the dinner table” rule. That’s because if you let them, some kids--and adults, for that matter--will text their friends and play mobile games incessantly. Meal times are supposed to be for socializing and finding out what’s going on in your loved ones' lives, right? Remember the old adage: “The family that [eats, prays, camps, plays, insert your own verb] together, stays together.”

Talking on a Cell Phone in a Confined Public Space

The other day I was shopping at a department store when a woman walked into my vicinity while glued to her phone and counseling someone about a personal problem. After about 12 seconds I wanted to grab the handset away from her, smash it onto the floor, and stomp on it.

Why is it so aggravating to have to listen to a stranger talking on the phone?

It turns out that there's a good reason people are disturbed by the chatter around them in buses, trains, restaurants, or other confined public spaces.

According to the Los Angeles Times, researchers at Cornell University found that hearing half of someone's conversation distracts people and can lower their cognitive ability. Apparently, people have a hard time ignoring what the researchers call a "halfalogue." They say that it's because you can't predict the speech pattern of a halfalogue as you can with a monologue or two-way conversation.

Do the right thing and step outside to talk on your phone. If you don’t, some smart individual with better manners just might use a cell phone jammer to shut you up. They’re illegal, but people use them anyway.

[Related: Mobile Phone Jamming Draws Attention]

Shushing Person-to-Person Conversations While You Are on the Phone

Shushing other people
Even if you take your smartphone conversation outside, however, remember that you still rank lower than people having in-person conversations out in the real world.

Sue Voelkel, managing editor of Macworld, says that this one gets her the most.

“Someone was on the phone on a street corner waiting to cross the street, and I was at the same corner with a friend. We were talking and laughing. And the person on the phone kept trying to shush us. I'm like, ‘Dude, you are out in public on a street corner. If you want privacy for your phone call, go home.’ I have seen this desire to shush people in public from other mobile-device users, and it is extremely annoying,” Voelkel says.

Remember, unless you’re in a library or some other quiet space, people have the right to be conversational--even without a phone.

Texting Someone Already Within Earshot

I confess that I have done this, much to my husband’s chagrin. Texting him is just so much easier than walking up a flight of steps, and it's quieter than bellowing my question across the house.

Doing this brands a person as lazy, however. If you don’t want people to judge you, get up and walk the 20 feet to have your conversation the old-fashioned way.

What did I miss? I’d love to hear your stories about the bad mobile manners that drive you batty. Let me know in the comments.

Follow Christina DesMarais on Twitter and Google+ for even more tech news and commentary, and follow Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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