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Stop Phubbing: The rules for modern phone etiquette

If you’ve ever been ignored in the company of a friend because they were too busy looking at their mobile, then you’ve been ‘phubbed’ (a rather inelegant portmanteau combining the words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbed’ to describe a very modern social phenomenon).

phone etiquette

Image By: Roberto Trm

‘Phubbing’ is a term coined by 23-year-old Alex Haigh from Melbourne, who has started a campaign website called Stop Phubbing, which recently went viral. The site contains tongue-in-cheek phubbing statistics such as, ‘if phubbing were a plague then it would decimate six Chinas’, and anti-phubbing campaign posters that can be downloaded, printed, and hung up in restaurants and cafés to prevent people from ignoring their present company.

The campaign has been set up just for fun, but it carries a serious message about how we conduct ourselves in the online and offline world. Online abuse via social networks has recently become a big story in the news. Could the ‘Stop Phubbing’ campaign be a wake-up call? Perhaps we as a society need to put down our phones and say, ‘Enough with our obsession with these insidious little electronic devices!’ It’s time we all got a grip on our social affairs and drew up some new rules for modern telephone etiquette.

Know when it is not OK to take a phone call

Unless it is an emergency, you should not take a phone call in queues, gyms, coffee shops, restaurants, theatres, lifts, public restrooms, or basically any place where the public and your companions have to suffer the cognitive annoyance of having to listen to one half of a telephone conversation. If you are stuck in a situation where you can’t step away and get a bit of privacy to make a call, then I’m afraid you should wait until you can get a moment to yourself.

Stop taking ‘selfies’

Instant photo sharing and the rise of the ‘selfie’ have turned the business of running your daily errands into what is now apparently the stuff of ‘news’ to those in your social networks. How many people really need to know that you’ve got a new shade of lipstick? The answer is none.

Yet apparently, we are so obsessed with shooting these self-styled pictures that we feel the resulting pressure to be ‘camera ready’ at all times. But who are we trying to impress? The mean girls from high school? Ex-boyfriends? Is this navel-gazing really necessary to make you feel good about yourself? I suspect the answer is probably not. So move the camera away from your face and smile for the world, not your followers.

The pictures do not make the experience

If you have ever spent a while trying to take the perfect shot of an event with your camera phone, did it ever occur to you that you may be missing a vital part of the experience of being there in the first place and not viewing it through your phone’s camera? Well if you haven’t, you probably should, because there’s nothing worse than having your view blocked by some Herbert who doesn’t know how to use his camera phone properly!

Do we really need to know?

If you are making plans with someone, then of course it’s fine to get in touch with them via text. However, there are a certain number of life events that just shouldn’t be communicated via SMS or status update. For instance, do you really need your extended network to help you lick your wounds after you get a bit of bad news? If you’re a grown-up, then I would have thought probably not.

Similarly, if you’re celebrating your successes, is a status update really sufficient to share your elation with the people that matter the most to you? You shouldn’t assume that these people (like your auntie on the other side of the country) check Facebook every day. Most of us would probably be in trouble if we didn’t call our parents at least every once in a while, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re ‘off the hook’ just because you shared your good news on Facebook. Find the number of the people you need to contact and let them know about your news with your actual voice.