Tips for Courteous Use of Technology in Public

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.

  1. Dim the bright light on the screen.
  2. 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.

  3. Don’t type and stride.
  4. 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.

  5. Lift your head and be aware.
  6. 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.

  7. Your taste in music may not be shared by others.
  8. 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.

  9. Think twice before you shoot.
  10. 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.

  11. Mute that mobile phone, for goodness's sake.
  12. 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.

  13. Yes, the other side can hear you, and so can all the rest of us.
  14. 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.

  15. Relax, it’s just a game:
  16. 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?

46 comments on “Tips for Courteous Use of Technology in Public

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    August 9, 2012

    I got a few chuckles out of this one…by the way, it doesn't help either when you speak louder to someone that doesn't speak your native tongue

  2. Cryptoman
    August 9, 2012

    by the way, it doesn't help either when you speak louder to someone that doesn't speak your native tongue

    Many people seem to disagree with that one Barbara. Most people are convinced that if you speak loud and slow enough to someone who cannot speak your language, they are likely to understand what you are saying. (the truth is the person watching you probably feels so sorry for you that they pretend you have successfully managed to get your message across to them!)

    There are many very entertaining American and British soaps that make fun of this false belief 🙂 🙂


    August 9, 2012

    Maybe we should use your points to create a portable gadet usage test and only when everyone passes do they get a license to use a handheld device 😉

  4. _hm
    August 9, 2012

    People do defines for other to follow. They themselve may not follow it.


  5. SunitaT
    August 10, 2012

     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.

    @Dr.Cagri, I totally agree with you. We need such an App which undertands where to enable the mute function. I am sure its possible to implement such an App because we can easily locate theaters and cinemas using GPS.

  6. SunitaT
    August 10, 2012

    Maybe we should use your points to create a portable gadet usage test and only when everyone passes do they get a license to use a handheld device.

    @FLYINGSCOT , this might eventually happen considering the fact that number of accidents caused because of “mobile device usage while driving” is on the rise.

  7. Cryptoman
    August 10, 2012

    Hi tirlapur.

    Using GPS for this concept application is interesting but I have my reservations regarding its technical capability and suitability for the application we are talking about. However, the resolution needs to be very acute to make sure that the people waiting at the foyer of the cinema can still use their phones.

    Nowadays, most cinemas are located inside a shopping mall. Therefore, if the GPS location information is not accurate down to a meter, many happy shoppers will be unhappy because they are cut off from the network.

    Another challenge is how to get accurate location information by using GPS indoors. As you know GPS is useless inside buildings.

  8. bolaji ojo
    August 10, 2012

    That would be a nice addition to the licenses and permits we already have to carry. I can't wait to be licensed to “carry” a phone, tablet PC, laptop and the Fitbit Michell Prunty has introduced to us. I was also thinking of the fact that we also “misuse” electronic gadgets at home. We should be licensed to use the TV remote, the microwave and especially lights.

    The other advantage of these new requirements could be helping the government to pay off loans with the licensing fees. 🙂

  9. Ariella
    August 10, 2012

    #6 is a big one. Also, despite the law, people persist in talking on their cell phones while driving, which makes them even less mindful of pedestrians attempting to cross the street. That gets me into another law/courtesy that is overlooked — the one about pedestrians having right of way in a crosswalk. Drivers don't seem to think so, and will simply proceed to turn without checking for people. Of course, they're more important than the walker and can't wait — they're busy people who have to talk while driving!

  10. SunitaT
    August 10, 2012

    However, the resolution needs to be very acute to make sure that the people waiting at the foyer of the cinema can still use their phones.

    @Cryptoman, I agree with you, resolution of GPS is not that great. There is one more technology ( Indoor Positioning)  which is being developed which exactly tells the location of the person inside the building . This technology can help us solve the resolution issue.

  11. t.alex
    August 10, 2012

    I have seen people who walk and watch movies off a tablet at the same time. That is dangerous.

  12. Barbara Jorgensen
    August 10, 2012

    Cman: It must look funny from both sides. Good point.

  13. Cryptoman
    August 10, 2012

    Hi t.alex. I have never seen that happen. I think your example can easily be tip number 9 on the list! Watching movie on tablet while walking is unimaginable.

  14. Cryptoman
    August 10, 2012

    Hi tirlapur. Thank you for the link on indoor positioning technologies to come in the future. It is a really nice article to read. I think with such possibilities underway, muting phone application will be a child's play. However, criticisms and concerns on privacy will follow tracking technologies like a shadow for good I think. If the benefits outweigh the risks, I am sure people will bring their guards down on tracking technologies.

  15. Eldredge
    August 10, 2012

    Thanks for compiling this list – the general public needs to be reminded of these courtesies frequently.

  16. Adeniji Kayode
    August 10, 2012


    That is really dangerous and a kind of abuse too.

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    August 10, 2012


    You know people can abuse anything. That is really an abuse and a dangerous one too.

  18. t.alex
    August 11, 2012

    It's not every day sight but I did see a few times. This can be prevented if tablets have some mechanism to detect if the user is walking so it will stop playing. This can be easily achieved with builtin gyroscope and accelerometer sensors.

  19. Cryptoman
    August 11, 2012

    The hardware within a tablet can easily provide such functionality. The reason why this feature does not come as standard is because the problem was not defined when the tablets came into use. When a new product is rolled out, users create their own ways of using it outside the original ways envisaged by the designers. The health and environmental hazards etc. emerge as an after thought on many products.

  20. t.alex
    August 11, 2012

    I guess now it's time someone develop some smart apps for preventing these hazards from happening. Maybe it's gonna be selling 🙂

  21. mfbertozzi
    August 12, 2012

    @t.alex: that's a good point, definitely; believe it or not, I have seen also people checking email on smartphone and handing mobile while driving…it is tremendous because of they are putting in critical conditions others' safety.

  22. Cryptoman
    August 12, 2012

    The article only covers cases that cause nuissance in public. Use of mobile phones while driving is a serious threat to public safety and is well beyond 'nuissance'. That is why in most countries it is classified as criminal offense. However, enforcing it is not easy and that is why we see many people talking on a mobile and messaging while they drive.

  23. mfbertozzi
    August 12, 2012

    @cryptoman: I agree with you, in my previous post I've told about a matter beyond, the reason was related to the fact by using same devices for nuissance, people can also do, in a such way, dangerous situations, perahps inadvertently.

  24. Anna Young
    August 12, 2012

     @Cryptoman, yes you're correct, the use of mobile phone whilst driving endanger other road users and this is generally punishable by law in some countries. However, the uses of mobile device in public places by the general public have seen little intervention from the law. You'll expect common sense to prevail when using these devices in public places; sadly it's often not the case.

    Good tips and a reminder for all to be considerate when using these devices in a public place.

  25. Adeniji Kayode
    August 13, 2012


    Do you mean something like a motion sensor.

    What will be the implication on sales on Ipad carrying such device.

    I don,t think manufacturers will like to include devices that will make people think twice on that products

  26. Adeniji Kayode
    August 13, 2012


    You are right, people even ping themselves on motion too.

    I don,t support that at all but on the other hand, don,t we call them mobile devices.

    “Mobile” people using” mobile” devices may not see anything wrong in that.

  27. Adeniji Kayode
    August 13, 2012


    Good piont Anna, it is the “common sense” that is missing and that cannot be included on the device by the manufacturer but by the user or the Law enforcement agents.

  28. mfbertozzi
    August 13, 2012

    @Anna: exactly, but I am still wondering why, if it is generally recognized as wrong behavior, only some countries are punishing it and several are still allowing that dangerous way to drive.

  29. mfbertozzi
    August 13, 2012

    @AK: yes, I agree with you, I am convinced, after all, it is an unconscious conduct from them, maybe as happened for Internet, it should be a possible approach, to try to define a sort of netiquette also for mobile, as Dr.Cagri did within his article.

  30. Adeniji Kayode
    August 13, 2012


    You mean few countries.

    I mean to say very few countries see that as a dangerous conduct while in lots of developing countries, they don,t see a need yet to regulate such conduct.

  31. Anna Young
    August 13, 2012

    @Kayode, You're right, that is the point I was making. It is a mannerism and common sense issue not for the manufacturer to deal with. However, it will be a good thing perhaps if manufacturers of mobile technologies can further invest in educational promotional advert to help educate discourteous users Lol!

  32. Anna Young
    August 13, 2012

    Mfbertozzi, I'm sure these other countries too will catch up in the end. It cost money and man power to legislate and implement new laws. It's possible that these countries too are looking for cheaper and convenient method to solve this never ending mobile device driving offences. Who knows?

  33. Adeniji Kayode
    August 13, 2012


    The manufacturers might be afraid of doing that except the law steps in. They might be thinking that might effect their sales because users might feel a bit constrained but the law steps in just like their is a warning on any cigarette park.

  34. Susan Fourtané
    August 14, 2012

     “…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.”

    Yes, it's rude, and it has become to be an annoyance. 

    From all the points that one is the one I believe many people should work on improving. I have always been critical about people using their mobiles when being with someone else, unless what the person is doing on the mobile can't wait, which is not always the case. 

    Some people will be texting, or checking their social media when you come to meet them. They will not “be with you” for at least ten minutes until they finish whatever they were doing. The same kind of people you will find going with you to a café, and the first thing to do after ordering is taking their mobile out from their pocket to open Foursquare. After doing all the Fourquare thing without saying a word or listening to what you were saying, they will take the oppotunity to check their social media. 

    Intesting enough, those same people may complain about technology and how people are spending less time with real people. They should start respecting the person who is with them, forgetting about the mobile for the time the coffee break lasts, at least. 


  35. Cryptoman
    August 14, 2012


    I do find people prioritising their mobile phone stuff over their friends who are standing up right next to them. At that rate, such people may end up with their social media friends only!

    When it comes to taking calls, I follow this simple and very effective rule with most my incoming phone calls: “When the phone rings, it is at the convenience of the caller not the callee.” Therefore, if I am busy doing something or talking to a friend, I do not rush to answer the phone like Pavlov's dog. I pick up the phone when it is as convenient for me as it is for the calling person. You can always call the person at a more convenient time and nobody has a problem with it.

    Let me tell you, this simple rule really helps me manage my all the phone calls I receive and it makes me much happier 🙂 Highly recommended.

  36. Susan Fourtané
    August 14, 2012

    Hi, Cryptoman 

    Yes, most likely any rule that makes you happier is highly effective. 🙂 

    I agree with all what you said. I have a variation, too, I keep my phone off if I am busy, or with someone in a meeting -business or personal. I choose to do this because it doesn't give me the stress factor of the phone ringing. As you well said, if it's not good time for you, it's not good time for the call.

    Plus, I said before, if you can have your call/messages issues any other time, why would you choose the time when you are with someone leaving the person just waiting?


  37. mfbertozzi
    August 14, 2012

    Well Anna, your post is an interesting and fair perspective, maybe in the near future also smartcars could represent an additional help in targeting that task.

  38. mfbertozzi
    August 14, 2012

    Absolutely yes AK, the right sense of my post was exactly “a few countries”.

  39. t.alex
    August 15, 2012

    Adeniji, iPad already has all these sensors ! Specifically they are accelerometer, gyroscope and even digital compass.

  40. Anna Young
    August 15, 2012

    @Kayode, you're right this is not a matter for the manufacturer to deal with. The onus is on the user to be mindful, respect others and their surroundings when using these devices.

  41. Anna Young
    August 15, 2012

    @Mfbertozzi, good point. Maybe smart cars can override human activity/control when the vehicle is in motion and possibly minimise cause of driving offences. But will smart car solve the issue altogether? What would you like to see in your smart car?

  42. Adeniji Kayode
    August 16, 2012


    Really! but do they really restrict the users to use them when safe to do so.

    And are these devices allowed to be switched off?

  43. Adeniji Kayode
    August 16, 2012


    You are right on that and even if a manufacturer include these devices in smartcars, they will also provide option for users to turn them off at will. which means that this is not a problem to be solved by manufacturers but users.

  44. Cryptoman
    August 19, 2012

    You hit the nail right on the head there Adeniji.

    The trouble with most safety features is that there is a way to bypass them somehow. One good example of this is the seatbelts that produce an annoying sound when they are not worn. The way around this is to lock the belt in place before you sit and voila! you can drive around without wearing your seatbelt.

    The important thing here is not the technology but how much users believe in their usefulness to use them as intended.

  45. Adeniji Kayode
    August 19, 2012


    You are right on that, on the other hand if these devices are made not to have option to switch it off, there might be complications too.Probably the saying is true that the” law is made to be broken”

  46. mfbertozzi
    August 20, 2012

    @Anna: many thank for allowing me to share some thoughts about; I've tried to write down a list of major wishes…very long output as result ! After that, I am convinced that apart smart features installed in, human must absolutely still have full car's control !

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