July is National Cell Phone Month. Realizing this prompted me to look deeper into a subject that I frequently write about and inevitably talk about in my presentations. With a bit of research, I uncovered some interesting statistics.
Some of them may surprise you; some may not.
• Did you know that 94 percent of Americans have cell phones?
• On average we check them 150 times a day.
• 58 percent of us keep our cell phones next to us when we sleep.
• We send over 6 billion text messages a day.
• That’s 763 text messages per person each month.
This bit of intriguing information was compiled by MobileCoach.com, an organization that encourages mobile engagement and text messaging. I guess that is why they want us to know that 98 percent of text messages we send are read.
A study of cell phone usage by the Pew Research Center revealed even more fascinating facts. Here’s what they found:
Some 92 percent of U.S. adults now have a cell phone of some kind, and 90 percent of those cell owners say that their phone is frequently with them. Some 31 percent of cell phone owners say they never turn their phone off, and 45 percent say they rarely turn it off.
Seventy-seven percent of all adults think it is generally okay for people to use their cell phones while walking down the street. Seventy-five percent believe it is all right for others to use phones on public transit.
But only 38 percent think it is generally okay for others to use cell phones at restaurants and just 5 percent think it is permissible to use a cell phone at a meeting.
So what do all these statistics tell us that we didn’t already know? Most of us are keenly aware that cell phones and smart phones are a dominant part of our lives, and some of us are cognizant of how this constant connectivity is affecting our business and personal relationships.
One of my favorite books is “Alone Together — Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” by Sherry Turkle. Her title says all we need to know about cell phone usage.
How many times have you observed people in meetings with the hallowed phone in front of them on the table as they keep a watchful eye to see who is calling, texting or messaging?
How often have you observed groups of people out for a meal and each one is more engaged with the phone than with others at the table?
While these devices are convenient, handy and irresistible (or so it seems), they are causing harm to our relationships and to our ability to communicate with one another. We have forgotten that the people with whom we are meeting or eating deserve our undivided attention.
Furthermore, as use of our smart phones increases, especially among those ages 18-29 who tend to text and message more than others, our ability to speak and write in complete sentences is decreasing. Our basic language skills are suffering.
One final observation: Young adults have a higher tolerance for cell phone usage than older adults. Younger people are likely to use their phones in business and social settings. Older people not only use their phones less, but they also find this obsession with cell and smart phones to be rude and offensive.
So a word to the wise — consider the setting and the company you are keeping the next time you want to reach for your phone to check your email, respond to a text or send an instant message. The highest and best use of these devices is to be able to build relationships in a well-mannered and thoughtful way.
I could give you rules, but more than ever, I want to emphasize that it’s not about rules — it’s about relationships.
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or LydiaRamsey.com.