Last week, I was eating lunch at one of those artisanal, organic Los Angeles cafes where shot glass-sized smoothies cost $8. There I was in the cafe's peaceful courtyard sipping my tangerine-blood orange juice when a jarring noise disrupted the blissful scene: brrrrrr-ing….. brrrrrrr-ing…… brrrrrrr-ing…. "Oh, I'm getting a call," said a woman in a wide-brimmed white hat and Jackie O. sunglasses to her lunching lady friends, before reaching into her purse to hit ignore.
Yes, we all noticed you were getting a call. Because your phone announced, loudly and unnecessarily, to a bunch of strangers that someone out there wants to talk to you telephonically. I looked at her, trying to conceal my horror, thinking, "I bet she has an AOL email address."
Because let's face it: only the most tech-backward among us still has their ringers on.
Most savvy people know that their phones should be muted in public. According to a Quora poster, all the young, hip "millennials" have switched their phones to silent mode, "even though they use them incessantly." A brave member of the clan explained what was happening: "It spares the person from the constant beeping of their cell and also from the weird looks that one receives when one's phone keeps on beeping."
This isn't just common practice. This is the law of the land now. It's a matter of etiquette. Yes, it's a societal norm now not to disturb the peace with your phone notifications—but some members of society remain unaware of this. There are some poor fools out there who are still obliviously beeping, booping and playing Godfather music ring tones. I am writing this just in case you are the hold-out in your group of friends, or at your office, or in some enclosed space with strangers, who thinks it's okay to have a phone that makes noise in public.
I am talking to you, guy on the subway who is playing Clash of Clans on your phone forcing everyone else on the train to listen to sword-swinging noises and soldierly shouting. TURN IT ON SILENT. I am talking to you, lady who just turned on your phone after the plane landed, whose friends bombarded you with text messages while we flew. Your text message tone is a frog, which must have seemed charming at the time you chose it. But now, your phone is "ribbiting" like Kermit being murdered, and everyone on the plane wants to submerge it deep in a silent pond. Yes, I'm talking to you, officemate who has Beethoven's Fifth Symphony as your maxed-volume ring tone and who likes to leave said phone behind at your desk when you leave the office for long periods of time. Who actually leaves their phone behind these days when they go to the bathroom? You do, and you get a lot of phone calls.
Oh, also: Personalized ring tones are not cute; they are a relic of the past. There was once a time when having a phone was novel, but now everyone has one. And we need them all to be chill and quiet. These days, it's all about personalizing your vibration. The greatest part of the Apple Watch may be its haptic feedback feature, a notification buzz no one else can hear.
When phones were landline-locked, noisy rings made sense. We needed to be able to hear them from rooms away. When phones became mobile though and moved outside of the house, we kept the ringers on, because we were accustomed to associating "phone calls" with "loud noises." But once the vibration button was invented — Nokia patented it in 1995—phones should have started to default to silent.
After all, we are all so addicted to our phones that they are usually touching our bodies. They are in our pockets or our purses. We can feel them ring. We do not need to afflict phone noise pollution on ourselves or anyone else. The sound disrupts what's happening around you. It disturbs conversations, it interrupts trains of thought, and it gets on people's nerves. Your phone is like a crying baby on a plane.
"I don't want to constantly have my ear pricked for some sort of contact from the outside world," wrote a Gizmodo writer when she swore off phone sound in 2012.
Yes, in 2012. Three years ago! Phone sound has long been out of style. Get with the silent, soft-buzzy program.
Then you won't ever be that person whose phone rings during a work meeting, at a Broadway show, in church, in the middle of a symphony, at the dramatic point in a movie, or, eerily, after a disaster, when you're beyond the point of being able to pick it up. Ideally, phone silence would become ubiquitous, so we would stop having to sit through those inane "please silence your cell phones" reminders at the theater.
So please people, when you leave your house, remember your keys, remember your phone, and remember to switch it to silent. The only time your phone should make noise is when you are at home and it is acting as your alarm clock.