What is proper cell phone etiquette?
August 20, 2011 4:24 AM   Subscribe

When I'm out with my friend and his cell phone rings which he doesn't want to answer, he sits there (with the phone within easy reach) and lets it ring until the caller gets voice mail (8 or 9 times, distracting and annoying to me), rather than mute the ring. Isn't proper "cell phone etiquette" when you're not going to answer your phone to at least mute the ring so not everybody around has to hear your phone ring a bunch of times?
posted by sfla_law to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Does he know how to? Serious question.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 4:34 AM on August 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


Do you just want confirmation that this is inconsiderate? Have you asked him to mute his phone?
posted by bearette at 4:36 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have an older cell phone that doesn't have external volume buttons or a way to mute the ring without rejecting the calls, which doesn't allow the caller to leave a voicemail. He could have a phone like this, or he could just not know how to mute the ring (it's tricksy on some phones, and a lot of people don't really spend a lot of time learning how to do everything on their cell phones anyway). But yeah, it's a bit rude to let it ring.

I'd try asking him to mute it. It doesn't have to be a big thing - "Hey, would you mind muting that?" - and if he says he doesn't know how to do it, then perhaps you could show him.
posted by lwb at 4:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hit the red "hang up" button to decline the call, will roll the caller into voice mail.
posted by kovacs at 4:46 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes you have to let it go to voice mail. On some phones or whatever if you mute it, then it stops ringing on the callers end, so they realize you're not answering on purpose.

This happens with my phone, so I always let it ring out, and it's annoying to others, but not much I can do if I don't want to hurt the person on the other's ends feelings.
posted by crawltopslow at 4:52 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


The obvious solution regardless of phone model is to leave it on vibrate. That's what considerate people do when hanging out with friends or going to (for example) restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events, etc.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:11 AM on August 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


in "the old days" I would just pull the battery quick when that happened
posted by thilmony at 6:25 AM on August 20, 2011


This happens with my phone, so I always let it ring out, and it's annoying to others, but not much I can do if I don't want to hurt the person on the other's ends feelings.

Odd. Why do you think someone's feelings would get hurt because you can't take their call at that moment?
posted by jayder at 6:38 AM on August 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


"This happens with my phone, so I always let it ring out, and it's annoying to others, but not much I can do if I don't want to hurt the person on the other's ends feelings."

I think, anymore, most people realize other people with manners are sometimes in non-cell-phone situations and are sending you to voicemail not because they don't want to talk to you but because they'll have to call you back. It USED to be rude to do "send right to voice mail" but now people except it and may even appreciate it, since they don't have to listen to the ringing on their end for as long before leaving a message. When someone sends me right to voice mail, I assume they're in a meeting or having an important conversation or playing with their kid, and I appreciate that a) I'll have their full attention when they call me back and b) they're the sort of person who, when I'm the in-person person, won't lose their attention to a cell call.

The only reason to let it ring out is if you have some kind of stalker situation where you don't want them to know you even ever look at your phone.

But yes, OP, if your friend knows he won't answer his phone for a while, the proper thing is to mute the ringer or turn the phone off. If he has a smart phone, he should be able to silence calls without the right-to-voicemail thing if he wants to, as well as set up states-of-being for the cell phone where his kid/wife/liver donor can ring through but other calls can't. There are apps for that.

If it really bothers you, get a phonekerchief! But probably just tell him, hey, this is driving me crazy. A phonekerchief is a bit passive-aggressive if you're doing it to someone else.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


The question you have asked is "My friend is being rude, AMIRITE?" But there's a really easy solution here. Talk to your friend. "Hey, friend, your phone is ringing, and while I really appreciate you not interrupting our conversation, the ring is distracting me. Would you mind muting the volume?" Then, you'll find out whether there's a reason for his behavior. (Maybe his phone doesn't work the same way as yours. Maybe he doesn't know how it works, and you can show him. Maybe he doesn't want the caller to know he's rejecting the call, so he needs it to ring the full number of times. Maybe he loves the soothing sounds of his own ringtone.). At the same time, he'll find out that he's annoying you and be able to do something about it.
posted by decathecting at 6:39 AM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It depends on the phone, but there's often a distinction between "muting the ring" and "declining the call". On my old phone if I declined the call (usually by pressing the 'hang up' button) it would go directly to voicemail and the caller could infer that I wasn't going to answer their call right then. If the person calling was someone I knew would take offense at that, I hit the 'down volume' button to mute the ring. The call would still be coming in, waiting for my answer, but silently until it rang all the way through to voicemail.

In the world of touchscreens and smart phones I'm not entirely sure if this solution works, but I am entirely sure that not many people know the distinction.
posted by carsonb at 7:26 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Odd. Why do you think someone's feelings would get hurt because you can't take their call at that moment?

Because it's my grandma who understands three things about cell phones: 1) you call people with them, 2) there's a thing called text messaging, and 3) there is a butt you can push to ignore people when you don't want to talk to them.

If I hit ignore on my grandma, she gets sad. jayder, are you trying to break my grandma's heart?

Anyway, count me among the people with unevolved phones who can't mute the ringer without declining the call. If I'm in a situation where I can't take the call, and it's someone I know will be upset by it, I cover the phone speaker with my finger, effectively muting it. Even if your friend doesn't have the right kind of phone, I'm sure he has fingers.
posted by phunniemee at 8:32 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Dude, mute that fucker."
posted by DarlingBri at 8:32 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you are in a situation where you can't take calls your phone should be on silent (not even vibrate) and in your pocket or purse. At least this is how I feel because it makes me want to punch people when I'm in class and all I can hear is their frigging phone vibrating every ten minutes, that shit is loud and just as distracting to those around you as a ringing phone is.

If you absolutely must know when someone is calling then you mute or decline the call. It is a question of being possibly rude to one person - the caller (who will more than likely understand, especially if you explain), or being rude to an entire room full of people. It seems like an easy choice to me.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:47 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


At least he's not answering it. I think he thinks he's being polite. Maybe you can suggest that he mute it when he's with you, but I'd find a way to make that suggestion in a nice way--"I hate to be distracted when you're so interesting, so could you mute your phone?".
posted by Ideefixe at 8:48 AM on August 20, 2011


He does know that almost all phones mute the ring with the volume button without stopping the ring on the caller's end, right? All of the phones I've had over the past 12 years have done this, of several brands (Nokia, Motorola, Blackberry, Droid, and some other obscure one I don't recall). Some phones were the basic model cheapo, some were top of the line technogadgets. If you hit the red "call end" button, that will drop the caller right into voicemail and make them suspicious that you're ignoring them because it stops ringing on the caller's end. But if you hit the volume button, it silences the call for you but just keeps ringing on their end until they get voicemail after the 6 or whatever rings they can hear -- it seems like you're just not in the room when the phone goes off & they're none the wiser.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 9:18 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you sure he knows his phone is ringing? I'm sorta in phunniemee's grandma's camp in that nowadays with the seemingly unlimited noises a cell phone can make when it's ringing that I often set a new ring and then promptly forget which one I chose, and only realize I have an incoming call when a companion prompts me by saying, "Hey, is that your phone ringing?"

So that might be a good script to follow. Bud's phone rings, he ignores it. You say, "Is that your phone ringing?" and if he says "Yes" you've got an easy opening to learn why he's letting it ring out.
posted by jamaro at 9:22 AM on August 20, 2011


The issue isn't what proper cell phone etiquette is. The issue is whether your friend has a clue about what proper cell phone etiquette is. Your friend does not. Clue him in. Be direct about it, because he really truly might not even have a clue.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:54 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


A better solution is to urge him to turn off his cell phone before you sit down to your meal. Problem solved.

Pretend like it's a new thing you're trying. "My project for this month is to Be In The Moment, so I have started turning off my cell phone whenever I'm with someone I want to focus on. Won't you join me?"
posted by ErikaB at 4:53 PM on August 20, 2011


>> Isn't proper "cell phone etiquette" when you're not going to answer your phone to at least mute the ring? <> Easy solution: 'Dude, turn it off if you're not going to answer it!'
If he doesn't know how, show him.
posted by LonnieK at 5:52 PM on August 20, 2011


Sorry if I wasn't more clear: Yes, I just want confirmation that this is inconsiderate.
posted by sfla_law at 9:48 PM on August 20, 2011


Well, we don't know if he is deliberately not considering your feelings. If he knows you hate the ringing and has chosen not to do anything about it, then yes, that's inconsiderate. If he doesn't know the ringing bothers you, then it's possible that he has considered that demonstrably not answering while spending time with you is being properly polite.

Consideration means that you've thought about/made an assumption about other people's feelings and decided how much you want to accommodate them. Not everyone is coming from the same point of view on these things. I think ringing cellphones are horribly annoying, but your friend may be very good at tuning them out. If you aren't, you need to politely say something. It's not fair to assume that everyone is going to feel the same way about phones as you, because it's pretty clear that many people have weird ideas about what is or is not rude when it comes to phones.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:04 PM on August 21, 2011


>> Consideration means that you've thought about/made an assumption about other people's feelings <>
No, that's not what consideration means. It means the exact opposite. It means you're NOT thinking about (i.e., considering) other people's feelings.
The OP doesn't need me-fi to tell him his friend is being inconsiderate.

posted by LonnieK at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2011


Sorry, a little skewed above.
Yes, consideration means you've thought about other people's feelings. Being inconsiderate means you haven't -- NOT that you've analyzed the situation & come to one or another decision.
If the friend hasn't thought about his friend's feelings -- has not considered them -- he's inconsiderate by definition.
posted by LonnieK at 2:49 PM on August 21, 2011


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