Are People Using Mobile Devices In Public Getting More Thoughtless?

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I’d like to get some opinions on something that I’m seeing more and more of as I travel and I’d like to know what you guys think, whether I have a point or whether I’m way off base….and I’d like to hear what your recent experiences have been like too.

I really don’t know what’s going on in people’s heads nowadays but I can’t remember a time when the frequency of what I would classify as antisocial/inconsiderate use of mobile devices has been this high.

Let me give you some examples to see what you think.

Example 1 – The Video Watcher

I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve been in a seat at an airport gate or in a lounge only to have someone sitting nearby decide to watch a video on their device without using headphones.

I’m not sure if they have a particular aversion to headphones or if they don’t know what headphones are but what exactly is the thought process that goes through a person’s head (I’m assuming there actually is a thought process) that leads them to think that this is ok?

Do they really think the rest of us want to hear whatever it is they’re watching?

I’ve had this happen on aircraft too and typically it’s a parent who thinks it’s acceptable to give their child an iPad (or other tablet) and let them watch it with the volume turned up high and sound playing through the speakers.

How is that acceptable?….and why doesn’t a person’s brain kick in and let them know that they’re probably disturbing the peace and quiet of everyone around them?

Example 2 – The Speakerphone/FaceTime Call

This is something that I see everywhere so it’s not just something restricted to airports….and it really beggars belief.

I don’t know about you guys but I don’t like to broadcast any part of any phone conversation I have to the wider world so, if I have to make or receive a call when I’m in public, I tend to walk away from where other people are and then I also keep the call as short as possible.

But that’s certainly not how a lot of people behave.

I’m starting to think that I’m a little odd because the number of people I see who seem perfectly happy to share their entire phone conversation with the world is staggering.

  • I’ve had people sit next to me in an airport or hotel lounge and promptly start a Skype/FaceTime/speakerphone call with colleagues, their spouse or tradesmen.
  • I’ve had people sitting two seats away from me in a lounge FaceTiming with an infant that can’t yet speak (I nearly got up and threw the guy’s phone across the lounge after 10 minutes of high-pitched screaming from the child on the other end of the line)
  • I’ve sat in train carriages where someone decided that the best way to conduct their private phone conversation was by putting it on speakerphone.
  • Just the other day I had a lady walk right into me in a grocery store because she was FaceTiming someone while walking around with her arm outstretched in front of her…and she wasn’t even discussing grocery shopping!

Why would you do any of this?

Example 3 – The Selfie Addict

I’ve never understood the fascination a lot of people seem to have with taking photos of themselves but, if you absolutely have to take a photo of yourself, how about showing a little consideration for others?

I’ve always considered the selfie to be the ultimate tool of the self-centered narcissists among us but, as long as the selfie taker isn’t bothering anyone else, I guess it’s not really an issue.

The problem is that there’s an ever-growing group of people who want the perfect selfie and who don’t care how many people they have to inconvenience (or for how long) to get a shot they like.

  • I’ve seen people standing in the middle of a road to get the best shot of themselves with the Hollywood sign with no thought for the cars that would like to use the road too.
  • I’ve seen people hold up a whole sidewalk of commuters on their way to work while they take shot after shot of themselves in various poses in front of something they haven’t really looked at (or understood) but that they simply have to post to social media.
  • About a month ago I watched as a selfie-taker stood on the roof of a parked car (the car wasn’t theirs) just to get a better shot of themselves in front of a hotel.
  • I’ve lost count of the number of flights on which I’ve seen people hold up the entire boarding process as they try to get the perfect selfie the moment they step foot inside the aircraft.

How is any of this acceptable behaviour in a civilized society?

Bottom Line

I genuinely don’t understand people who do the things I’ve outlined above as I’m pretty sure I’d die of shame if I found myself doing any of them….but I’m starting to wonder if I’m in a minority.

I classify everything I’ve mentioned above as antisocial, thoughtless and rude but, as I said at the very beginning, I’d love to hear what other people think.

Am I being unreasonable wishing that people didn’t broadcast their phone conversations, play their videos in public without headphones or hold up traffic as they take selfie after selfie in the search for the perfect pose?

With the number of people doing one or more of the above on the rise, I’m left wondering if I have an outdated view of how people should behave in public or if it’s just that more and more people are ignorant and oblivious of the world around them.



  1. And I thought it was just me…lol 🙂 I have become to hate the use of mobile devices in public for all these reasons. Then again, I was around long before mobile phones were and don’t understand why everyone has to be in touch 24/7.

  2. Great article. People can be so irritating and inconsiderate with their electronics. Restaurants are even worse for folks watching without headphones and it’s not just children. Adults showing videos to each other or playing a game. I think the worst thing I’ve seen is a child (about 5) FaceTiming at the Louvre with an adult showing the adult the exhibits on the screen. I nearly got into a fight at the Chick-fil-a for making fun of a guy for putting someone on speaker. I said, “GLAD WE ALL KNOW THAT CAROL WANTS A CHICK-FIL-A SANDWICH! I DON’T LIKE MINE WITH PICKLES, EITHER!”

  3. The best two investments one can make today for travel are a pair of noise cancelling headphones and earplugs. I can’t count how many times per travel day people have been FaceTiming with friends and family without their headphones in/on. Just blows me away. Put.The.Earbuds.In.Now. I understand the need to talk to your boss, or Uncle Frank, or your boyfriend or the babysitter, but please for the love of Pete, try to do it quietly. We don’t all need to know about your conquests. Thank g(d I keep ear plugs in every backpack and travel bag.

  4. All within the last month:
    • In Business from PVG to SFO a guy is watching a movie on his iPad with the volume cranked to the max.
    • Guy in a restaurant sitting behind me with his wife. He’s using FaceTime on speakerphone with the volume cranked up. He’s getting dirty looks from several of the other customers but he is totally unfazed.
    • At a wine shop a man and his wife are using FaceTime on speakerphone as they read off and discuss the inventory in-between personal stories with their buddy. They’re very proud to tell one of the staff that they are chatting with their buddy about wine.
    To me it seems like there’s been a definite uptick in this kind of behavior in the last couple years. It’s not like this technology is new so it’s odd to see the sudden surge though personally it really rankles me.

  5. It is the me first culture. The fact that the name of a certain large tech company’s popular products are named I-this that and the other is further evidence of the new societal mores!

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