Bells Are Ringing

   And Not in a Good Way!

Is there anyone left on the planet who doesn’t comprehend the crisis in civility that we’re facing with our mobile devices?  We’re in the midst of a PDA pandemic that has turned us into addicts.  And, just as we get our dependency on crackberries under control, Apple tempts us with its new iPhone.

The paradox – and hypocrisy — is that while most people are quick to criticize cell phone offenses, the same people also tend to be the offenders.  The good news is that mobile devices can make our lives easier, more productive and safer; the bad news is that can make our lives harder, less productive and more dangerous.

This view is evident as students tend to text constantly, to the exclusion of their classes, friends, family, motorists and the world around them; they crash their cars, insult others who they ignore and get thrown out of lecture halls by professors who prefer not to compete with mobile devices while they, well, lecture!  And this disturbing behavior is not limited to students; too many of the rest of us — parents, teachers, professionals, CEOs and commuters — text while driving, on the train, during meetings, dinner, and important events.  Finally, we routinely ignore signs that tell us to turn off our cell phones, whether we’re in hospitals, airplanes, theatres, lecture halls or performance centers.

That brings us to what might well have been a watershed moment – or several moments – that occurred last Tuesday at the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. An iPhone’s alarm went off, causing a furor.  First, the conductor stopped the performance and asked the owner of the cell phone to silence it.  Then, a mob mentality took over– first, in the theatre, then on the Internet – by those who apparently never, ever violated cell phone etiquette (not). The actual and virtual mobs vilified the person whose iPhone went off, exhibiting uncivilized behavior that was more upsetting than the original incident.  Mobile devices bring out the worst behavior in people, whether they’re the offenders or the offended. In the case of the Philharmonic fiasco, according to a follow-up story in The New York Times, the offender’s company had just replaced his Blackberry with an iPhone, which he dutifully silenced but failed to realize that an alarm had been set. Rather than further humiliate someone in that position, reasonable and mature people demonstrate empathy and forgiveness.

Accordingly, there are many lessons to be learned by this incident, but the one I’d like to focus on is: Don’t let this happen to you! 

As a student or young professional, you need to be aware of this critical issue because achieving your goals hinges on what those in charge of your future think about you.  It doesn’t matter if those who have power over you are guilty of misusing their own cellular devices, they will still judge you harshly if you misuse yours.

To master the smartphone storm and improve your interpersonal skills, wellbeing, and personal brand (more about branding in an upcoming post), consider tackling the following 10-Point Plan:

  1. Don’t text while driving, or when you’re a passenger if there’s a chance that it’ll distract the driver.  Yes, I know you’ve heard this ad nauseum, but it’s at the top of the list of PDA protocol and bears repeating.  To address the remaining nine points, it’s required that you be alive.
  2. Understand the workings of your new device to ensure that all alarms and ring-tones are silenced.  Technology seems to be changing faster than Lady Gaga’s costumes, so check to be sure that you have effectively silenced your new iPhone 4S before you settle down in your concert seat or you could end up being the subject of an unpleasant tweet bomb.
  3. Turn off your cell phone in classes, labs, lecture halls, meetings, assemblies, rehearsals, movies, college and job interviews, hospitals, airplanes, performance halls and anywhere else where you’re asked or instructed to turn them off, or where it is apparent that it’s advisable to do so.  Show maturity and respect.
  4. When dining with your family or visiting with friends, turn off your device.  Your iPhone is always with you, but your family and friends aren’t; give them the attention and respect they deserve.
  5. Remind others, courteously and if necessary, to silence their devices.
  6. Offer to assist others kindly in checking their devices to ensure that they’re silenced.
  7. Refrain from checking your cell phone or texting while you’re at work, whether it’s a full/part-time job, internship (paid or unpaid) or volunteer position.  Don’t interrupt your work or disturb coworkers by texting or talking on your cell phone.  If you must make or take a call, do so on your break and seek a private area.
  8. Be kind and understanding of others whose devices go off accidentally; it could happen to you, or anyone.
  9. Set an example for others to follow by practicing good cell phone etiquette, and show tolerance when someone makes a mistake.
  10. Apologize and take quick action to silence your device if it chimes by accident.

By taking these steps to smartphone savoir-faire, you’ll assume a commanding position and giant leap closer to creating an outstanding professional brand!

Until next time,



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