For a high school teacher like Jena, a daily challenge besides teaching is keeping her students off the cell phones. For countless times, she has to tell them, “Please focus on your work and put your phones away.”
Often she wonders how did those devices find their way into the classroom like some essential resources? How were the days before they invaded the classes and started making teachers’ work so hard just to keep them off while she or he teaches? Through the whole level, those devices are either in their hands, laps, pockets, or desks. Jena could hear the beeping as messages pour in or the ringer goes on vibrating. With their smart phones, they are present in the room physically, but their minds are wandering in another world.Jena teaches in a college town of America and wishes that the decision-makers with the board of education would come up with some robust rules to eliminate cell phones from the classrooms. The problem is not restricted only to American schools, educational institutions across the globe, countries where cell phones, exceptionally high tech ones, are in the hands of youths, face a similar dilemma. It is not only the young people who go overboard with their phones, so do the adults. Family meals these days do not come with engaging conversations over dinner or lunch. Some people around the table will sit silently, head bent over the phone, texting away, or Facebooking. In a way, we are no longer conscious of table manners. It seems that in the present world, we are alone even when sitting in a crowd. If spending quality time for the family is to be good, everyone has to be without devices, so they can be attentive to each other.
These days we see signs saying, “No Cell phones” in quiet areas of a building, at meetings and classrooms. The need is beyond such reminders, and may as well be jotted down for regular reminders.
Dear Mobile/Cell Phone users:
1. Make the most and the best use of your cell phone when you are by yourself. It’s like a friend who you talk to, a friend in need. It gives you music, sermons, social media and so on. And so keep the relationship particular and respectful.
2. When in a room with people who need your attention, who are listing to you, please, please follow the phone out of hand or nearby where you can answer if required urgently.
3. Much as we tell our children that phones are an addiction, for us the adults, it’s a similar case as well. When we are socializing and keeping the cell phone near at hand, we tend to go back to it from time to time, no matter who deep into the conversation we are. Remember that unintentionally we offend the person we are connecting to for not being in the moment.4. Dinner tables, or for that matter, any meal shared around a table should have no phone conversations. Period. Eating together is about sharing life, to speak to each other, and all that without staring at the phone screen repeatedly. Eating, talking, laughing together is healing far greater than the momentary pleasure of getting a like on Facebook or Instagram.
5. When out on a date, couples tend to lose on the purpose of the meeting when one or the other seems to have attention elsewhere. In fact, dating goes nowhere for one sole reason: when one of them seems more interested in what’s going on in Facebook instead of the person he or she is with. The impression was that there were more important things than the person on the other side of the table. Relationships, as tricky as they are to keep in balance, crave attention as the first priority.
6. Cell phones are a way of life in the present world. It is the new reality that we carry with us everywhere we go to communicate. With smart phones, we take the Internet in the pocket. For students who are distracted over the smart phone uses in classrooms, could a dumb phone be an option?
7. The use of phones on public transports requires caution and respect for other passengers. For the buses, at times, we are reminded to keep phone calls short and keep voices low. For trains, individual discretion is needed for the passengers sitting close by. We definitely don’t want to disturb a tired commuter with a loud voice over the phone. Its mutual respect and regard for our fellow passengers. As it is said, “Do not do unto others what you would not want to be done to yourself.”
You had a long day at work, feeling sick and are dozing on the train. Would you like it when the passenger next to you laughs and talks on the phones as if or she is in a park? Yes, we need to communicate with others while on the go, but our voices can be respectful.
8. The cell phones are not only to talk on, but smart phones also come with more choices: alarm, music, Siri, GPS and so much more. Even in the bedroom waking your partner at 5:00 am because you need to awake does not justify waking everyone else in the home with a loud alarm.
9. Ring tones and alarms have many options. Some sound with drums, seem like rock bands playing right next to your pillow, and some have serious notes. When it comes to choosing a ring tone, thinking of others within the ear range might be worth considering.
10. Uber has taken over our commuting across many countries of the world. An Uber driver, when asked about the behavioural patterns of her passengers, replied, “I get into tight spots when passengers start conversations about intimate details in my car, either with each other. More so when they begin loud conversations over the phones, and I wish I could stay out of it.”
We could go on adding to the list of phone etiquettes, smart or the older models called the ‘dumb phones.’ But for their worth, our I-pads, cell phones, or other devices, we need to keep our respect for others around us. And like an etiquette-manual for phone users, we could go over them from time to time and keep adding new ones. Courtesy costs very little in cash but brings immense gratification in return.
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA