Unspoken rules govern cell phone etiquette

NEW YORK Mon Oct 19, 2009 2:06pm EDT

A woman talks on her cell phone on a subway train in New York in this February 2, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Seth Wenig

A woman talks on her cell phone on a subway train in New York in this February 2, 2006 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Seth Wenig

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - It may not seem like it when commuters are shouting down their cell phones to the dismay of other passengers but most Americans believe there are unspoken rules about mobile phone etiquette.

Checking emails, sending text messages and making telephone calls while in the company of others are definite breeches of mobile manners.

Texting during a date is also strictly forbidden.

But most people questioned in an online poll said they would not be offended if they received an electronic thank you, instead of a written note and 75 percent had no objections to anyone using laptops, netbooks and cell phones in the bathroom.

"Etiquette is first and foremost a question of awareness," said author and etiquette expert Anna Post.

But she described the results of the Harris Interactive poll commissioned by Intel as "pretty surprising statistics."

Sixty-two percent of the 2,625 adults who took part in the survey agreed that cell phones, laptops, netbooks and other electronic devices are part of daily life.

Fifty-five percent also thought the demands of business mean people must stay connected, even if it involves taking a laptop on a holiday or answering a cell phone during a meal.

But despite the need to be constantly connected and the general acceptance of the technology, people were more sensitive about technology abuses during holiday and religious activities.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans think cell phone use is unacceptable during a religious service and 30 percent admitted they would be offended if they received an online gift wish.

But more than half revealed that they intended to send an electronic greeting card, instead of a traditional one.

"These are issues about common sense," said Dr Genevieve Bell, an ethnographer and director of Intel's User Experience Group, adding that the social rules of when and how it is appropriate to use the technology are still being formed.

Mobile phone etiquette also differs according to varying regions of the world.

Post is convinced that mobile technology etiquette will become increasingly relevant, particularly at traditional gatherings, and it will become more challenging to determine what is appropriate and what is not.

But she did draw the line with thank you cards.

"I stand by the handwritten thank you note," she said.

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