Discover more from Snarky Senior
Cell phone etiquette applies to you too
Ditch that flip phone before it has to be pried from your cold, dead hands
When I lived in New York City in the late Pleistocene era, I ate lunch regularly in Chinese restaurants because there were so many of them and the food was delicious and cheap. Remember those days? I digress.
One day my friend Loni and I noticed six Asian college-age boys at the next table all riveted to their phones, totally ignoring each other. They didn’t speak or look up once during entire the meal. This was before cellphones took over our lives completely and we thought this behavior was amusing.
Little did we know how ubiquitous it would become. Now we try desperately to get the attention of our children or grandchildren while they are on their phones, iPads or other electronic media, usually to no avail. If young people think it’s OK to ignore each other it’s hard to expect them to pay attention to us.
If it's my daughter ignoring me I put up with it –reluctantly--because I realize that's acceptable to her generation. That does not mean I will forgive cyber rudeness in friends my own age who should know better.
I once had a friend in New York, I’ll call her Lydia, who would ignore me repeatedly to answer calls, chat with her husband, make travel plans, and Google theatre websites looking for cheap tickets. I didn’t say anything to her because at the time cellphones were a novelty—I didn’t have one yet— and I didn’t want to seem uncool, but I was really pissed.
Then I got a cellphone and I understood. I too fell in love with it, but I try to exhibit some restraint. I only check emails and Facebook when I’m on the can or occasionally sneak a look under the table.. I admit it, I may take a few extra bathroom breaks but at least I’m discreet.
Cell phone behavior is a big issue in today’s media –but only for parents of teens--what with the epidemic of cyber bullying, sexting, and other nasty digital behavior.
But what about us seniors? We need to adapt to the times too, but how, and how much?
If you don’t have a smartphone, get one. According to the Pew Research Center 85% of adults ages 65 and older own a cellphone, with 46% using a smartphone and 40% using a regular cellphone. If you’re hanging onto your flip phone until it’s pried from your cold, dead hands, I’m talking about you. If you have to press three letters to get the right letter to send a text, God help you, no one else will. Lack of money is no excuse. Even Lifeline cell phones for low income seniors are smart phones.
Take your cell phone with you and remember to TURN IT ON. It’s not much use if a friend needs to find you in a crowded event and it’s off. Young people have their cell phones glued to them at all times, but we’re still adjusting to a world where we can be reached 24/7.
Give your friends your cell number so they can actually call you. Then answer the phone if it rings, and check your texts regularly. If you don’t want to be bothered, fine, but at least return calls or texts in a timely manner—like the same day.
Use a provider who provides reliable service in your area. Too many people blithely say, “Oh I never get reception here, I have T-Mobile, or Verizon, or AT&T.” You’d switch your cable service if you couldn’t watch TV so switch cell providers.
Snarky Senior is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Don’t be a cyber curmudgeon
Get used to listening to one side of conversations. People talking on cell phones in public places is the way of our world today. The practice is not going away no matter how much it annoys you. I eat out alone a lot and I figure that I have a right to talk to a friend over lunch just like people who have actual humans to talk to. However, if it’s late and you’re on a bus or train and the lights are out and people are snoozing you do have a right to complain
Stop kvetching in theaters. I sure don’t want to be that cranky old lady who tells people to stop texting in the movies. I really don’t get how the light from a cell phone is all that distracting in a movie theater unless it’s right next to you. I got yelled at recently—by an irate old lady of course-- because I had my cell phone flashlight on during the previews. As it happens I was helping my friend figure out how to use the headphones the theater provided for the hard of hearing.
Get with the program.
Learn how to text. Texting is a great invention. It has the advantage of recording information in writing so you don’t forget it. And, like email, it gets you off the hook without direct confrontation. Caveat: do not break up with anyone by text message. Young people actually do this. It’s the equivalent of Carrie getting broken up with on a Post-it note in one of my favorite Sex in the City episodes.
Don’t be rude like your kids. Young people casually break dates at the last minute because they have cell phones and think it’s OK to take a better offer. We’ve been around long enough to know this is rude. But if you do have to break a date because you got an offer you really couldn’t refuse, at least come up with a decent excuse, like “I got a call from the hospital.” Be vague. You don’t have to say which hospital or who’s in it. You could text your excuse, but that’s really the kid’s way out. Grownups pick up the phone and call.
Use your cell phone strategically. For instance, since cell phone reception is always fading, if you say “you’re breaking up” a few times and then hang up, you’re off the hook when asked who’s in the hospital. Lack of reception covers a multitude of cell phone sins.
Tell me in the comments what cell etiquette you adhere to.