Phone Etiquette

This happens to be a repost from my old blog, but from what I’ve witnessed and heard of late, I think it’s necessary to remind Kenyans of  basic phone etiquette…

Ever wondered why the only food that isn’t another man’s poison happens to be… money? We all seem to want piece of it, and when we get it, we never seem to get enough of it! We live more than half of our lives toiling for it and ironically, at the end of our cycle, we realize that it’s not the most important thing in the world after all. What ends up being important then, happens to be the legacy we leave behind; what we’ve done with our lives, how we treated others, our relationships, the memories we possess, the feats we’ve achieved, the mistakes we conjured and ultimately, where we think we’re headed after that…whether it be the afterlife, purgatory, hell, reincarnation, Valhalla, Heaven or a slumber akin to death.

All of that laid aside, what I will focus on in this post is one particular gadget that our money constantly loves  catching up with trends and technological advances, though most importantly, to remain socially relevant in this rapidly changing oblate sphenoid … it’s a different kind of relationship… it’s the one most of us possess with our Blackberries, iPhones, Nokias, Samsungs…etc

There’s been a proliferation of mobile phone usage in Kenya since late 1999, the year I remember it was only my father who possessed that funky but monolithic mobile gizmo that cost as much as two and a half year’s rent in say, Jamhuri Estate, in the entire household. Today though, you can get a Kshs.500 second hand handset or the infamous ‘Kabambe’ at just less than 1500. The figures are so astronomically confusing and complicated that it would take an entirely different post to write about it. However, my concern is that while we were out purchasing our nifty gadgets, we were not taught how to use these little things that tend to be, if wrongfully used, a nuisance to both ourselves and to those around us, without us even knowing it.

Think of it this way, you buy a tube of Glycerin, not labeled, no directions for use: what would you use it for?… the outcome would be disastrous! Thus, here are my 10 Laws of Phone Etiquette which I recommend to all of us…

1. The phone won’t fly away!
When you’re at a meeting, date or rendezvous, don’t clutch on to your mobile handset, no matter how expensive, or how precious it may be to you. Its ok to keep in in your pocket or lay it on the table, just don’t hold it in your palm like it’s a white dove ready to fly off any second.

2. The handset is only used by one person at a time. Mind your own business!
Lots of us seem to have a tough time with this rule. A handset is your own possession. What you do with it is your identity and your own business. Don’t ever try and peek over to someone else’s handset screen either in a vehicle, a matatu, the cinema or a public convention. It’s very intrusive on another’s privacy and it won’t go down well if your caught peeking.

3. Using your phone at the dinner/lunch table is equivalent to chewing with your mouth open
When you’re having a meal, avoid picking calls or texting. It’s polite to finish what you came to do at the table and then going on afterwards to finish up your business or phone conversation. It also draws away your attention from the goings-on at the table and does not create a welcoming aura to your persona. If you constantly are on your phone, you may be perceived as a recluse or a snob and this habit may isolate you from the rest.

4. Discretion of the Ringtone
No matter how hot your ringtone is or how great or in vogue it may be, be cautious as to when and where you decide to change your handset’s profile to ‘General’ or ‘Silent’. Just because you like a particular tune does not mean everyone around you does. Measure the demographics and environs to discern whether or not they will be pleased to listen to your latest tune. Don’t take too much time picking up your phone, just for the sake of the ringtone, but if you’re sure that you are among tolerant friends, then by all means… Make sure you adjust the volume of your handset’s functionality to suit the environment you are in and you will find that you and your ‘best friend’ become less of a nuisance.

5. Always cordially reply any text message you receive
In this day and age of social media and emails, it takes a lot of effort for someone to send you a text message, unless of course they prefer a more personal or traditional touch to inter-personal communication. Therefore if you do receive a text message, ensure that it is duly replied, even for confirmation of receipt. It goes a long way towards improving the perception the sender has of you in relation to how it will go if you choose not reply.

6. Treat every phone conversation like a secret that has to be kept
When you receive a call, speak in a clear but ‘personal’ tone. Not everybody around you wants to listen in on what you have to say. If it’s a crowded area, like let’s say in a public service vehicle…consider covering your mouth to the speakerphone of the handset so as to be clearly but at the same time, privately heard. Always measure the tone of your voice and do not unnecessarily shout out or exhibit unwarranted emotions in public.

7. Treat the phone like you would your In-laws after marriage
It is your phone but do not discriminately use it. Answer all calls even if you do not want to speak to the person at the moment in time for various reasons. It is polite to pick up the call and say something dismissive rather than to leave it ringing. It may also not always be the person we think may be calling but a third party using the handset. So let us avoid embarrassing situations and face our problems head-on, even if we may be unwilling to. Acceptable calling hours are usually from 8.00am to 8.00pm and any time before or after that is usually reserved for relatives, people you know very well or are close to.

8. Always return your missed calls, unless otherwise
If for one reason or another you were unable to pick up a call or had stepped out for just a bit, kindly make the effort of calling back and do not assume that the caller will redial! It is your duty to call back and confirm. One ‘Please Call Me’ is enough if you do not have units on your mobile phone. Do not send multiple flashbacks, as this proves to be annoying or too persistent. Do not also persistently call a number more than twice because you may be in danger of being labeled a ‘stalker’. Also avoid hiding your caller ID unless under very special circumstances (which are yet to be known to me); this doesn’t encourage the person to pick up the call and if missed, the recipient will not be able to call you back.

9. Minimize the time you spend on your handset
Studies have shown that the amount of time you spend on your phone could affect different aspects of your life: from your level of productivity at the workplace to your eyesight going awry as you constantly stare at the screen on Facebook or Twitter. Manage your mobile phone usage, increase the time you spend out in the ‘real’ world, meeting and getting to know people and getting involved with your environment. We don’t want life to pass us by on a ‘mobile’ technicality after all! Preferably us e a hands-free or Bluetooth device on calls, at least occasionally, as persistent phone usage has been known to increase chances of getting brain cancer

10. Be Eco-Friendly with your phone!
Most manufacturers have come up with environmentally sound ways of disposing of your unused or old handsets. You can hand them back to either your service provider or the manufacturer’s office e.g. Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson etc. and their experts will do what needs to be done, with the least negative impact to our environment.
I hope this post genuinely helps you with your phone usage.