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BLOG: A plague on bad mobile phone manners

Ross O. Storey | Feb. 28, 2011
Taxi drivers, movie theatre administrators and airlines take note!!

My wife, God bless her, has an interesting strategy when she goes to the movies. Before the film starts, she always politely discusses, with people on either side of her, the issue of mobile phones.

“I’ve come to enjoy this movie and will be very disappointed if you use your mobile phone during this session,” she says. “Please keep your phone turned off so we can all enjoy the movie.” She sometimes gets a surprised blank stare in response, but most people make sure their phones stay silent. Maybe they are wondering what this ‘mad’ expatriate woman would do should they dare use their mobile after her warning.

In Singapore, movie seats are numbered on tickets and movie-goers here are well trained about this. Yes, the movie theatres run warnings on the screen about turning phones off and not using video cameras (take note, pirates), but, never-the-less, people seem to believe that using your mobile during a movie screening is acceptable.

There are systems where movie complexes can electronically block mobile phone signals, preventing their use during screenings, but I haven’t seen this in Singapore. Too often, those annoying mobile phone screens light up during a movie, or someone starts a conversation, generally distracting everyone at some key point in the film.

Perhaps theaters need to confiscate mobile phones, or have special lockers where devices can be stashed before people are allowed to enter the cinema? Or perhaps cinema attendants, sometimes now equipped with night-vision goggles to watch for pirates handy-camming films, should also warn people who fire up their devices, even just to SMS.

The reason I raise this issue is that I’ve just read about an Intel survey which found that modern day mobile phone etiquette is getting worse by the day. People are increasingly giving priority to their communication devices ahead of common manners. 

The research found that 75 per cent of the 2,000 adults surveyed believe mobile manners have worsened since 2009. And more than 90 per cent said they have witnessed first-hand poor mobile behavior -- activities ranging from texting while driving or walking to talking on a mobile phone in a public restroom.

How often have you had someone stop a conversation in mid-sentence, to answer their mobile, without even an apology afterwards?

What about noisey mobile phone discussions in your ear while you sit on the bus?  Here in Singapore, a behaviour has developed where people hold their hands over their mouths while talking on a mobile, which at least is an effort to be discrete and polite.

Another of my top three bugbears is taxi drivers using mobile phones while they drive you around, potentially putting your life a risk. Too often this has meant drivers using one hand to steer while the other hold the phone. Others use hands free devices for their phones, but even these are suspected by researchers, to be more dangerous to the driver’s attention to the traffic, likely putting passenger’s lives at risk.

Of course, any taxi driver who talks on a mobile phone while my wife is in the vehicle always gets a stern rebuke, as they should. In most jurisdictions using a mobile phone while driving, at least without a hands free device, is illegal.

I swear, one day I say the driver of a huge cement truck blithely chatting away on his mobile phone, using one hand to hold it, while the other negotiated his behemoth vehicle through the traffic. Idiocy!

And what about mobile phones on aeroplanes? Another source of annoyance is when, despite polite loudspeaker warnings, business people grab their phones and use them as soon as a plane has landed, or even before it has taken off. They obviously think their business requirements take priority over their fellow passenger’s safety. Such people rely on most of their fellow travelers being too shy or embarrassed to do anything about it, and many hostesses and cabin attendants are also reluctant to tell them to stop.  I shudder to think what it will be like on long haul trips if airlines push ahead with plans to allow mobile phones to be used mid-flight.

Perhaps mobile phoning will go the way of smoking. Being a committed non-smoker I have little sympathy for those addicted to nicotine and most governments have banned smokers from restaurants, lifts and even public building foyers. Maybe the day will come when ‘no mobile phone’ signs will be displayed in just as many locations as ‘no smoking’ warnings.

There, I feel better now having vented my frustration. I believe mobile phone manners definitely need to be upgraded.

What do you think?

Ross O. Storey is the managing editor of all FBM Asia publications.


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