iPods, Cell Phones and Cultural Norms

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It’s funny how when a new technology comes out, it tends to take a while before people really formulate a set of standards for protocol on when, where and how it’s appropriate to use it. With cell phones, it seemed like it took a few years following widespread adoption for most people to realize that maybe they shouldn’t leave the ringer on when, say, sitting in a theater while watching a movie. While this kind of behavior was generally tolerable—though annoying—during its initial period of relative novelty, the cell phone’s ring has become downright insufferable in settings like this.


A little over a year ago, I had the opportunity to attend the swanky black-tie gala held in honor of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 50th anniversary, which featured performances from luminaries like Renee Fleming and Bryn Terfel. During one classical vocalist’s set, the bleeps and blips of someone’s cell phone erupted throughout the opera house, and broke the concentration of much of the captivated audience. Although the singer didn’t miss a beat, the offender (no, it wasn’t me) was greeted to hisses from fellow attendees sitting in the same section, and I have to wonder if s/he didn’t have to duck out of the theater altogether during the following intermission to avoid getting tarred and feathered. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized cell phones could be something more than a mild distraction in the wrong environment…it could induce severe anger.


The iPod, it seems, is in a similar position. While not new, its mass popularity is, and we’re collectively still feeling out just how and when it can be used. I think many of the same (mostly) unspoken rules that apply for cell phones work for iPods too, though. Want to rock out on your morning commute? Fine. Want to bump some beats during a certification training class? Uh-uh. That’s impolite behavior towards your instructor and classmates. How about jamming to some good vibrations at your desk while working? Well, that one’s not so easy. Supervisors go either way on this one: Some might think it’s a good motivator, especially while doing more menial tasks, but others might think it’s a distraction and be of the mindset that you’re there to work, not “goof off.”


Where do you stand on iPod etiquette? Are there other situations when they’re absolutely not acceptable? Should they be allowed in the office? Let us know about it in the General Discussion forum at http://www.certmag.com/forums.

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