Rules of courtesy have always been around, and they're more important than ever, now that mobile devices are widely used. More attention is being drawn to how their use in public may be a nuisance to others. Based on my own observations and articles I have read, I put together the following list of best-practices for wireless communication when you're out and about.
- Dim the bright light on the screen. As a user, you may not find the brightness of your screen disturbing, but the passenger next to you on a plane or a train at night may think otherwise. This is especially true if the person next to you is trying to sleep. Therefore, decreasing the brightness a little bit will not only extend the battery life of your device, but it will also demonstrate your concern for others.
- Don’t type and stride. There are no laws against composing an SMS while you are using a pedestrian crossing. However, by doing so, you are running the risk of bumping into another person coming towards you. If that person is also writing or reading an SMS, a collision is almost certainly unavoidable. Also, it can be rude to read or write text messages while walking with a friend who is trying to talk to you. Admittedly, we all do this every now, but if you are meeting a friend to socialize, I am sure forgetting about your mobile phone for an hour will do no harm, and your friend will appreciate it.
- Lift your head and be aware. When using public transportation, it is important to be aware of what is happening around you. An elderly or disabled person may need the priority seat you are occupying while playing your favorite computer game. Also, you may end up missing your stop if you are too busy key-tapping on a bus. So lift your head and know what is happening around you. You can always pause the game and return to it later.
- Your taste in music may not be shared by others. I am sure you have all been in a situation where you could clearly hear the music through the headphones of the person next to you on a bus or a train. Remember that not everyone may like the same music as you, so make sure you are the only one who is enjoying it when in public. I have been in a situation where I was not only able to hear the music but also able to feel all the dance moves of the teenager next to me every time she bumped into me in the London underground. So, wear a good set of headphones and keep the volume at a sensible level. It's also advisable to control the urge to dance on public transportation.
- Think twice before you shoot. In public, many people do not feel comfortable being photographed by those they do not know. The same applies to shooting videos. In some situations, you may even get into legal problems, depending on whom or what appears in the background of the photo you have taken and published on social media. Google will probably testify to that last statement, based on its experiences in Street View. Therefore, next time you point your multimega-pixel camera, just remember that others may not consent to your click.
- Mute that mobile phone, for goodness's sake. In a theater, concert hall, or cinema, there are always a few people who forget to mute their mobile phones, despite the many announcements made before a show. This is obviously embarrassing for those forgetful few and annoying for everyone else. If there was a mobile application that could mute a mobile phone when in public places such as theaters and cinemas, I am sure it would sell like hot cakes.
- Yes, the other side can hear you, and so can all the rest of us. Some people seem to think that the more they shout on a mobile phone, the better the recipient can hear them. One thing is for sure: the more you shout, the more annoying and disrespectful it is for everyone else around you. It is also likely that the recipient may not like it either. Remember that the receiving side can always turn the volume up if he or she cannot hear your voice. You do not need to shout and share your phone conversations in public.
- Relax, it’s just a game: Most teenagers are really into games on mobile phones and consoles these days. While tapping the keys in the heat of the moment on a mobile phone, they seem to forget where they are. They are either too busy trying to stop World War 3 or trying to rescue planet X from being infested with hostile alien life forms. This situation gets out of hand when a player is joined by a few friends who stare at the same screen and give directions and make loud and obscene comments on a public bus. Such behavior is certainly not welcomed by older generations from the pre-Internet era.
Obviously, my list is not exhaustive, and I wonder what other uses of technology in public may be perceived as disrespectful and inconsiderate. What are your thoughts?