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Cell phone etiquette 101

By Erica Hill
CNN Headline News

cell phone use
Westerners are most likely to turn a phone off in libraries, theaters, restaurants and schools. Midwesterners hit the off switch in retail stores.

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(CNN) -- To answer or not to answer? It's just one of many questions that boggle the minds of cell phone users and raise the ire of those around them.

There's a fair chance that anyone reading this column has been annoyed by a cell phone at least once. My personal pet peeves are ringing phones in movie theaters and people who insist on sharing their lives with the entire public transportation system. I ignore my phone on the bus. It feels strange to have a conversation with half the city listening in. Yes, I keep it on, but it's always on "vibrate" or in "silent mode."

When phones ring in the movie theater, it's even more frustrating. A few years ago, it seemed the owner of a ringing cell phone was often embarrassed about disrupting the film. The offending communicator was quickly silenced, and after a few hisses, the theater was quiet again. These days, I seem to choose the same theaters as people who not only answer their phones, but then proceed to have a conversation!

Luckily, I've never been anywhere that a ringing phone has led to violence. Earlier this month, a Massachusetts man was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after he allegedly stabbed a fellow movie-goer in the foot. The other audience member reportedly asked the 27-year-old to turn off his ringing cell phone. The man has pleaded innocent to the charges.

Still, is this what we've been reduced to? It was bad enough when people talked in the theater, but at least it didn't turn violent.

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A recent survey from Cingular Wireless found that practices considered "proper and courteous" vary by region. In the South, cell phone users are more likely to silence their phones In church. Westerners are most likely to turn a phone off in libraries, theaters, restaurants and schools. Midwesterners hit the off switch in retail stores.

At Yale University, some are taking the matter into their own hands. I found an article online from the Yale Daily News extolling the virtues of efforts at the school to teach cell phone etiquette. The new regulations of one of the school's residential colleges, Saybrook, prohibit the use of mobile phones in its library, and asks that students keep their phones on silent -- not vibrate. In the dining hall, students are asked to keep phones on silent or vibrate, and take any calls in a common room.

Perhaps it's time for Emily Post to tackle this one. The emilypost.com site offers tips for basic "Netiquette" and video conferencing, why not cell phones? Dr. Phil tackled it on his show October 10, which makes me think mainstream education may be only a ring or two away.

In the meantime, I'll do my best not to offend the masses, and I can only hope others will try to do the same.


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