Stop shouting into your phone!

00:07, Aug 09 2014

A Modern Manners reader suggests that we need to find an island on which to place those persons who persist in yelling into their cellphones.  

Cellphone etiquette has been canvassed before on these pages, and in many other places. But a few gentle reminders are always in order, in a world awash with mobile phones. And the yelling thing is particularly annoying to innocent bystanders, as our reader says. 

I was witness to a phone-yeller at a cafe in Tauranga last weekend. He'd at least had the good sense to take his phone and his high-pitched conversation outside, but that was right next to the outdoor tables where a number of people were enjoying winter sunshine with their breakfast.   

For some of us, there was no escape from his shouting match about a business deal in Christchurch, with a few details of the previous night's party thrown in.   

The yeller was probably in his 30s, but his manner and pitch reminded me, oddly, of my grandfather, who was given to raising his voice when he made phone calls. This was because my grandfather lived on a remote Kawhia farm, and I think he felt that by shouting he'd be better heard in Hamilton, Hastings, or wherever else he was calling.   

Quite a lot of his generation were phone-shouters. Back then they were often grappling with dodgy connections, party lines (children, ask your parents) and antique apparatus, and shouting sometimes really helped. 


Nowadays we have modern telecommunications wizardry, and most of these problems have been eliminated. But of course when you use your phone anywhere, and everywhere, you're competing with traffic noise, cafe noise, and background buzz in all kinds of places. Which has bred a new generation of shouters.   

While my grandfather shouted in the privacy of his own home, to a limited audience, modern shouters share their conversations with random people who don't necessarily want to know about someone else's real estate issues, or big night out. 

So the important thing is to always be mindful and respectful of others. Just take the conversation somewhere private, somewhere quieter, where you simply don't have to yell, and share with reluctant others. 

A couple of other reminders, while we're on the subject: don't text while you're in a face-to-face conversation with someone else. The phone stuff is never that urgent that it has to be addressed immediately, and it's disrespectful to the person you're spending time with.  

Similarly, don't keep checking your phone for emails and messages when you're with others. This can become like a nervous tick, and again it devalues the person who is trying to have a conversation with you. And on no account keep texting or instant messaging at the dinner table (certain members of my family may wish to note this).       

No-one's perfect when it comes to cellphone etiquette; it is such a temptation to respond instantly, no matter the circumstances, and to shout if you're competing with extraneous noise.   I've certainly been guilty of breaching the rules on being respectful of others.  

But a recent month of dodgy mobile phone reception in Italy was a useful reminder that there was life before 24/7 connection became the norm, and it can  hum along very happily and harmoniously.       

That's actually something worth shouting about. 

Got a suggestion for the Modern Manners team? Email features editor Deborah Sloan on or write to her c/- The Waikato Times, Private Bag 3086, Waikato Mail Centre, Hamilton 3240.

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