/ Technology

Techiquette – my manifesto for tech etiquette

So, I consider myself an avid tech user. It’s hard not to be in this day and age. However, it seems some are intent on destroying my enthusiasm by recklessly using their gadgets to annoy others in public.

I propose we abide by a set of rules to promote tech etiquette, or ‘techiquette’, if you will. I’ve outlined just a few examples below to set the ball rolling.

Irritating texting tones from mobile phones

People talking on mobile phones in public places can be irritating at times, but generally it has become a background noise that is, for the most part, ignorable. However, there’s a group of mobile users who have little regard for those around them: the button tone composers.

These are people who have, for reasons only known to themselves, not disabled the keypad tones on their mobiles, meaning that typing even a simple text message is like listening to one of those musical birthday cards, albeit one composed by a drunk bear.

Techiquette solution: I propose that either these people find the silent function on their mobile (and I will be more than happy to show every single one of them), or they try to achieve a recognisable melody when typing a text message.

Sure, the recipient might wonder what ‘sgrdh fhgurbv gheccog ghdget hkwof’ actually means, but everyone on the senders bus will have been treated to a lovely version of Frère Jacques.

Engrossed in ebooks while on the move

Look around any train carriage, and you’ll probably spy at least one fellow commuter tucked into their Kindle. Unlike the mobile, e-readers are wonderfully silent – so what’s the problem?

The issue arises when that person reaches their stop and alights the train… still engrossed in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They’ll then drift in the vague direction of the exit, still buried in their book, not acknowledging the numerous commuters diving out of their way.

Techiquette solution: There’s really only one way to deal with people like this. Tell them the ending of the book they’re reading. This way, they don’t need to finish it, and they can navigate their way out of the station the usual way, rather than blindly bumping off the walls and other people like a literate pinball.

Pocket screens lighting up the silver screen

Going to the cinema is expensive these days. Tickets are usually £10 or more, and add to that the snacks, drinks, 3D glasses and so on, and a family trip to see the latest Pixar film can cost the same as a week’s caravan holiday in Norfolk. It’s important then, that those two hours are enjoyable and stress free.

But no. Tech has a plan for those of you who like to watch your films in complete immersion, and they come in the form of the lighthouse keeper film buff. A curious breed, these are people who will pay to see a film, and then spend that time playing on their mobile, the bright screen illuminating a radius of at least three rows in the process.

Techiquette solution: I propose that anyone who wants to play with their phone in the cinema must be forced to do so at times that coincide with the onscreen action. Imagine a thunderstorm during the film, with lightning being complemented by ten bright mobile screens being turned on in the cinema. Incredibly immersive.

Poor headphones pouring out rubbish music

Music, as Madonna once noted, makes the people come together. I can only assume from this that Madonna has never caught the 1703 from Moorgate, and sat next to someone with cheap headphones on listening to euro dance music at high volume.

As nice as it is that these people are so enthusiastic about sharing their interest, any music being played through someone else’s headphones is tinny and awful, and most of us would rather listen to a dot matrix printer printing out War and Peace.

Techiquette solution: The obvious answer, which involves a pair of scissors, might be frowned upon by the transport police. Instead, I recommend that we engage with these people. I can guarantee that if you express a maniacal interest in what they’re listening to, they will quickly turn it down, and give you a wide berth next time they get on your train.

So these are my suggestions, but I am sure there are countless other examples that display a severe lack of ‘techiquette’. What are your personal gripes with public tech?


I agree wholeheartedly, but it does not stop there. People taking and making phone calls in meetings are very annoying. Sitting beside someone watching a video in a train is annoying, though it will not be long before all aircraft have personal screens. And so on.

An early memory was my mother saying that the TV must be switched off as soon as a visitor called in, as a matter of courtesy. Maybe is courtesy is dead and we all have to learn tolerance.

I do like your solutions, Jack, and might devise some of my own. That could be fun. 🙂


My mother is just the same wavechange. Telly has to go off if visitors come round even if it’s just immediate family. I think it’s an excellent rule 🙂


Oooh, good point about the TV wavechange. I think I’d like to add to my list ‘people who don’t look at you when they’re talking to you’ – people often carry out conversations with you while still staring at a phone screen, laptop screen, ipad screen or TV in the corner of a pub.

I’m probably guilty of it myself at work, as my eyes wander to the screen every time an email pops up in the corner. But it’s something I actively try to stop, as I think it’s really rude to stare elsewhere when you’re having a conversation.

Incidentally, forget leaky headphones – how about the kids who play their music out loud with no headphones whatsoever? At least people with headphones are trying to keep it down. I think the solution for people who play music out loud is to replace all of their music with songs from hit children’s musicals such as Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, etc. Then we’ll see how loudly they play it on the bus =)


Mary Poppins sounds an interesting idea. Personally I would go for an introduction to classical music. Wagner is not my favourite composer but can be relied on to make an impact. 🙂

Michael Gilson says:
31 May 2012

Logging into a social networking site the day after a day with friends to see:

15:20 In the Red Lion watching the football with James, Tom and Michael #COYS
18:32 cheeky stop off at newsagents for a beer on the bus with James, Tom, Michael and Steve
20:05 checked in to Vodka Revs with James, Tom, Michael, Steve, Alice, Chloe…

These are my actions and I have nothing to hide, but must it be documented and if documented must it be done, while we are doing it. All be it these are my friends and I shall be bringing up their disregard for Techiquette!

I also enjoy watching business men on trains playing angry birds on their tablets… but turn off the sound!


I like all the ideas, especially scissors for poor earphones playing europop.

Never, ever have I hear someone else’s music on the train that I actually recognised or liked. Some guy swore at a woman on the train the other week saying “can you turn that effin rubbish off, it’s annoying everyone on the train”
To which some random person replied “oh you’re so rude”, to which he replied “so is forcing us to listen to that rubbish”

I find it’s mostly people with iphones and their fashionable white earphones. “look at me, I’ve got an iphone and you can all listen to my brilliant music!” 🙂


I agree with all the points in this post so far. As a commuter, I find loud music through leaky headphones extremely frustrating – even if I like the music.

But of all the ideas mentioned, actual ‘social’ etiquette is my biggest bug-bear. I find it a bit insulting when I’m out at the pub with people and they’re sitting there playing ‘Draw Something’ while you try to have a conversation. And I think phones at the dinner table should be banned entirely!

Recently I was at a family get together and the teenagers in the room were all sat on Facebook on their phones, posting about how boring the party was. I couldn’t believe it – a few different levels of rudeness there!


I have always liked the concept of aversion therapy applied to behaviour correction. As the Mikado declared, “My object all sublime I shall achieve in time – to let the punishment fit the crime . . . ” and he proceeded to reel off a string of deterrents for various social offences. It’s time to revive some of these Victorian attitudes and apply them to the current lack of social etiquette, especially in public places. People who spray the walls with their tags in three-foot high images should be suspended in harnesses from the Spaghetti Junction flyovers and made to repaint them using one-inch brushes. The mobile phone user who cannot talk quietly should be made to sit on a high stool on the platform and perform the “Mind the Gap” announcements with a megaphone for every train arrival between 0500 and 2400 seven days a week for two months [or until their voice fails whichever occurs first]. And shoppers who remain affixed to their device as they go to the till or through the checkout should have their entire shopping load confiscated and be made to collect up all the discarded till receipts, put them into descending order of total price and sum them on an abacus with missing balls before being allowed to carry on with their shopping. There is no further sanction suitable for people who giggle as they play moronic games on their gadgets or shuffle through their apps in idle expectation as they wait for the curtain to rise in the theatre – they have already condemned themselves to a state of mental attrition from which I hope there will be no recovery, albeit at the risk of perpetual misery for the rest of us.