It’s happened to everyone: You’re chatting with a friend on the phone, and then you suddenly hear the unmistakable sound of a toilet flushing.
“Are you in the bathroom?” you ask.
If your friend is like almost 40 percent of smartphone owners, the answer is probably “yes.” According to a recent study sponsored by Google, 39 percent of the 5,000 people they surveyed admit to using their phones in the bathroom. Among those people, the vast majority is making calls, sending text messages or social networking while in the loo, meaning there’s a good chance that the message you just received from a friend was sent while they had their pants down.
A Cure for Boredom?
While some assume that people use their smartphones in the bathroom because they are desperate to keep in touch or stay on top of work (case in point: 12 percent of people claim they feel pressure to stay on top of emails, and that means never putting down their devices) the most common reason for using smartphones while on the toilet is boredom. The vast majority of people who admit to using their phones in the bathroom say that they do so to pass the time and alleviate boredom. Sending tweets, updating Facebook statuses, looking for recipes on Pinterest or playing a game have all been mentioned as popular activities in the bathroom; in fact, the most common application used in bathrooms after Facebook and Twitter is “Angry Birds.”
The Ick Factor
While the number of people using their phones in the bathroom is increasing, there are still a lot of people who think the practice is disgusting. And with good reason: According to one university study, one in six smartphones tested had traces of fecal matter and bacteria on them. Since the vast majority of people do not take the time to clean their phones on a regular basis, the implications of contaminated phones are great.
Beyond the physical presence of contaminants due to using phones in the bath, there are also psychological and social implications. Let’s face it: Most people do not want to be intimately involved in others’ bathroom habits, and when you’re talking on the phone or sending messages, you involve others. While in most cases there’s no way to know whether or not someone sent their tweet from the “Tweet Seat,” most people who learn that information later feel at least somewhat grossed out.
Etiquette Tips for the Bathroom
While most people would argue that ideally, phones should be left behind while you answer nature’s call, it doesn’t seem that this trend will be abating any time soon. If you insist on using your smartphone in the stall, keep these tips in mind:
Before using your phone in the bathroom, consider whether it will disturb or negatively impact others. If it will, wait a few moments, do your business in private, and call, text or update social media when you’re out of the bathroom.
Avoid discussing private or sensitive information if you’re in public. No one wants to hear a lengthy, one-sided discussion of why your significant other is a jerk, nor is it polite to share others’ information in public. You never know who else is in the bathroom.
If you are on a conference call (a very common thing among those who use phones in the bathroom) use the mute feature to avoid sharing all of the sounds of the latrine with the other people on the call.
Turn down the volume. If you are playing a game or watching a video in a public bathroom, not everyone wants to hear it.
Don’t take pictures and post them online. Just don’t.
Clean your phone every time you bring it into the bathroom. Store a container of antibacterial wipes on the bathroom vanity so you can easily wipe down the phone before you leave the room and remove any bacteria. Do this after you wash your hands, of course.
Misuse of mobile technology is often listed as one of the top pet peeves among people of all ages and using phones in the bathroom often tops that list. But since it appears that smartphones aren’t going anywhere, it’s important to learn to be courteous and respectful — and know when to simply hang up and go.
About the Author: Ana Keep writes about mobile technology and getting the most out of your smartphone for a popular lifestyle blog. She admits she has played a game or two of “Angry Birds” in the bathroom.