In the beginning, there was chaos. Prehistoric man was contented with clubbing, stealing, maiming and grunting. Liverpool aside, the human race got over it. We acquired etiquette, frameworks for the socially civilized. We built houses and wore clothes and tipped our caps. And it was good.
We then found that technology had a startling way of messing this all up. We had to adapt our frameworks for new situations, such as telephone calls and the politeness Wild West that is the Internet. We called the latter netiquette. And it was good. WE STOPPED SHOUTING. some of us even took onboard the idea that punctuation took just 0.2 seconds and yet it made things really readable and stuff. rotfl.
Now, my friends, we find our society being threatened again. We must prevent our descent into a post-apocalyptic B-movie. The mobile phone (cell phone to some) seems to have become an excuse for socially unacceptable behavior. ("Didn't you get my text? I said I'd break your mother's legs if you didn't call me back!"). I have taken it upon myself to reverse the spiral. I propose...
...or Celliqutte, if you must...
Like all of my ideas, it's very simple. It just requires people to accept a few home-truths about their beloved brain-tumor device and stop treating the world as if it communicates to them through their palms.
Rule 1: You still have landlines where you live, right?
Problem: I am regularly surprised at how some people seem to think that if you don't answer your mobile, that means you've been scrubbed off the face of the Earth and are currently spinning through social limbo. People do leave their phones on silent after being in a meeting, and they do leave their phones charging upstairs whilst they are sat watching the television downstairs. Does this mean that you don't want someone to reach out from the electronic ether? No. It means that you aren't allowing your mobile to silently sterilize you (I know it's happening. I can feel it) by leaving it in your pocket 24/7.
I know this will come as a surprise to some, but people do still answer ringing phones! It's a crazy thing, but when my landline phone starts a-ringin', I actually know that someone wants to speak to me! And usually, strange as it sounds, I go and answer it! Through some cosmic coincidence, landline telephones were designed to be audible through the whole house! Fantastic stuff!
This astounding invention gives us the first tenet of Mobiquette...
Conclusion: Because someone isn't answering their mobile, it doesn't mean they don't want to speak to you.
Resolves: This should resolve all sorts of problems, from being asked out to dinner by a particularly fickle hot date ("You've got one call, and then that's it!") to being notified of a thermonuclear warhead aimed directly at your house.
Rule 2: Text messages are about as reliable as carrier pigeons. Lame ones at that.
Problem: Most people have had text message conversations. Quite a few people have text message receipt notifications turned on. Surely at least a fraction of these have noticed that text messages are not instant. They are even more unpredictable than email. I have regularly been texting a girl and had text messages totally disappear. They just get stuck. I don't know why this is. It's especially frustrating when phone calls occur in real-time, and yet texts can take hours. I'll just be about to bend the opposite sex to ask me out, and it's all gone. This is a minor annoyance at best when your a playa like myself. However, not all of us are, and many people seem to be completely unaware this is happening. I regularly receive messages telling me that I'm rude and insensitive for not replying to texts that came precisely one second before (the phone system seems to send out a set of slow messages all at once). Again, a smooth operator can gloss over with their silver tongue. This is, unfortunately, just a particularly shallow situation. I recently recieved this SMS just as a I had travelled half an hour to a friend's house:
"Ive had to pop out of the house on an errand. Shouldntbe longer than a couple of hours."
Whilst the punctuation wasn't too hot, the main issue was that this message was treated as being instantaneous. It was not, giving me a one hours wasted round-trip.
Conclusion: Text messages are for non-important information transferral, not time-sensitive notification.
Resolves: Had my friend observed this rule, I wouldn't have wasted my time. People will stop being needlessly worked up when you've done nothing wrong. If you're so inclined it, also gives you an excuse to ignore people. Not that I ever would. Ever. Ahem.
Rule 3: There is a very good reason man doesn't come with signboards.
Problem: Did you ever see the Buffy episode "Hush"? The population of Sunnydale had to try and communicate without speech for days. Willow and Tara start walking around with wipe-off whiteboards to write down messages. The viewer was acutely aware that the world generally communicates via speech. It takes far longer to convey meaningful information within a 120 character limit without the extra benefit of intonation. This is not something lost on the designers of mobile telephones, which is why mobile phones come with those funny holes at the top and bottom.
It appears that girls (in the UK, at least) generally suffer this sickness, whereas men take the opportunity to swear at each other in various funny accents. Rather than convey a lot of meaningful information in a five minute phone call, girls would rather type out evryting in v strge txt spek which tkes 30 mins n loses most meaning. We've been conditioned within society to follow the pragmatics (expected behaviors) as set down by the situation. If someone begins yet another time-and-money-wasting text message conversation, the other party feels obliged to continue in that fashion, rather than stop the madness and give the original person a call. This method of pattern-matching works well, generally. I myself often find it works better to talk to my boss the way he talks to me (however strange), rather than using my usual expletive-ridden vitriol whilst dancing a tribal rain-dance. Which is why men are drawn into these elongated thumb-crushing attempts at communication. Team this up with Problem 2, and we have even more problems than a pig at the Deliverance Movie Appreciation Society AGM.
Conclusion: Text messages are for short snippets of information, like "Did you get that cool jacket earlier today?", "I think P Diddy reckons he's Jesus" and "The Pig is in the Poke."
Resolves: Money wasting, time-wasting and thumb crushing. People expecting you to set-aside half an hour to read about how their cool new jacket has pockets in the arms.
Rule 4: Hello and welcome to my useful voicemail.
Problem: I'm having a bath. I don't want to answer phone calls lest I become southern-fried with a hint of creme bath lavender if I drop the phone. Fair enough. So my mobile rings. Then my home phone rings (I'm giving the perpetrators the benefit of Rule 1. We aren't going to villianise people here). Then five minutes later, it happens again. And again. And again. I come to my mobile and I've had 7 missed calls from various different people. Stuff happens when you're popular. I am blessed with not knowing what any of the calls were about, because people hang up when they reach voicemail. I try and phone back, but the person is out of range, isn't answering, isn't audible in the club and so on. It's annoying. But, hell, I don't leave messages either. And it's bad. And it's wrong. I simply can't stand the damn lady telling me the person I'm calling is not available, and having to pay for the privilege. So, today, I'm going to give up. I'm going to start leaving voicemails again, so people know what I was going to ask/tell them. It's really handy. One thing that makes it a bit sweeter is a shorter, personalised message so at least you don't have to hear that lady babble on for five minutes before the beep. As a scar faery puts it: "I could scream every time I hear "welcome to the Orange answerphone"." This was mainly why I stopped leaving voicemails too. Change your voicemail today, and spread some happiness!
409 brings up the point: "People don't use voicemail as it costs money to listen to the (often) pointless message." There are two schools of thought on this one, and it mainly boils down to your pricing plan. Pay-As-You-Go often stings you for money on voicemail, but it stings you on cash anyway, so it isn't really any different in my mind (especially if you end up calling someone you can't hear because they're in a noisy place!) Contracts are generally free. If we're going to be nice to one another, then the onus is on the caller to not only leave the voicemail, but to make it informative too!
Conclusion: There's no real excuse not to leave voicemails, so save everyone some time and give it a shot.
Resolves: Infurating to-and-fro exchanges of missed calls. The contsant ringing in my head that drives me steadily insane. Oh so steadily. Oh yes. They will know.
These are the four tenets that make up Mobiquette. Some of my previous issues have already been resolved by technology, like NO MORE SHOUTING IN TEXT MESSAGES, and some have been solved by society all by themselves: I never hear a mobile go off in the cinema, and people generally keep their voices down if they're somewhere quiet. I think these are some of the less obvious problems that many haven't picked up on yet, so hopefully putting them into words helps. Or maybe I could just start stapling my tenets to people's foreheads. Or create phones that send electric charges instead of ringing. Oh the ringing! ALL THE RINGING IN MY HEAD!
Please abide by Rule 4!