Knowing when to shut off your cellphone and show respect

Lisa Goudy
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There is a reason people should turn off their cellphones before a movie in a theatre or a live production.

To be clear, I don’t mean during a hockey game, a football game, a baseball game or any other type of live sporting event. In those situations, it is perfectly acceptable to be on your phone doing whatever you please. That doesn’t disrupt anything because of the nature of the event.

But when you’re at a live event such as a theatre production or a vocal concert, a cellphone ringtone is disruptive and distracting. It might seem at first too much to ask given the nature of our seemingly cellphone-addicted society, but actually it isn’t. It’s about respecting what and whom you’re watching and it’s about respecting others who have come to watch the same thing as you.

Personally I’ve experienced both situations many times. Ignoring the little blue light that illuminates an otherwise darkened room, the sound takes away from what you’re watching. In the case of a theatrical or musical performance, it takes away from what the people involved are putting on for you.

Let’s face the facts. If you’re at a live theatre event at the Mae Wilson Theatre, for example, you’ve paid money for your ticket. That means everyone else in the theatre has also paid for his or her ticket.

Even if admission is free, you and everyone else there have still made the commitment to come and watch the event. It’s only the smallest courtesy to allow everyone to fully enjoy the event without unnecessary disruptions, including the performers.

People might rationalize by saying it’s an emergency and they’re waiting for a call. It’s possible that is a legitimate reason. If that is the case, put it on a soft vibrate and quietly slip out of the room if it rings.

But that should only be in extreme situations. Otherwise even putting it on silence isn’t enough. As long as the cellphone is on, the temptation will linger there for you to take it out and update your Facebook status or text somebody. If you need to be on your phone that badly for non-emergency reasons, perhaps you shouldn’t have bothered attending.

Like many things, I believe there’s a time and a place for cellphones. When you’re driving, having a cellphone is, in my opinion, essential in case something happens or you need help.

When you’re chilling out and relaxing at home after a long day of work and/or school, playing on your cellphone is great. There is a much longer list of when it’s okay to be on your phone. Cellphones are great and I’m all for them.

However, I don’t believe cellphones should be used in the middle of a class at school or university. That would be a time for students to pay attention and respect their instructor.

Similarly, cellphones shouldn’t be on during live productions or at a movie in a theatre. Shut off your phone before a production (or a movie). It’ll only be off for a couple of hours at most. The world and your cellphone will still be there after it’s over.

Organizations: Mae Wilson Theatre

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