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Counselor's Courner: Hello? Hello?

I love my cell phone. It’s new, it’s cute and it sings songs to me.
It allows me to talk to my family members in other states for free. It reassures me when I drive on the highway after dark. It remembers phone numbers, it allows me to multi-task and, all in all, it’s a great gadget.

I’m not so crazy about your cell phone. I remember the days when I could use a ladies’ room without having to inadvertently eavesdrop on someone in the next stall who is having a fight with her boyfriend (plus the whole hygiene issue of a phone in the rest room – ick!).

I remember when I could give a guest lecture and not even be aware of the student discretely doodling and paying no attention in the third row. Now he is text messaging, with the phone held high and no regard for rudeness.

I remember when I could go to a concert, a movie or a play, and nobody’s phone would ring!

I even remember people going out to dinner and talking to the people at the table instead of those in their ear.

I may not like your cell phone, but I truly understand why you love it. All I ask is for some common courtesy.

It’s not wise to antagonize your professors first thing by letting your cell phone ring or buzz during class. It’s definitely a no-no to leave a class or a meeting to answer the phone. And please try to remember that the general public is not interested in your intimate psychological or medical problems – there is no “cone of silence” over you when you use your cell phone in public (hmm, there’s a good idea…).

In addition to the issues of public rudeness, I worry a little that the cell phone can be not just a link, but a tether. It is, after all, easier to stay in constant contact with familiar people back home than it is to reach out to strangers here at college.

It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, but some students seem to use their cell phones to isolate themselves from new surroundings.

Since I came to Martin five years ago, I have been consistently impressed by how polite and pleasant most students on this campus are.

There are very few of the big-city discourtesies to which I had been accustomed. I’d hate to see the way we use cell phones become part of the breakdown of our polite acknowledgement of each other, in a neighborly way.

We are working out a new etiquette for the new technology, but the underlying principle of the old etiquette still serves us well: let’s be considerate of each other.