Airplane etiquette: Is cell phone use out of control?

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Is it just me or has cell phone use on airplanes gotten out of hand? I just got back from Minnesota and couldn’t help noticing on the many legs of my trip that people were glued to their phones, talking from before boarding until take-off, and resuming again from the minute the plane touched down.

I get that when we travel, we need to be in touch with family or friends to talk logistics—remind them to pick us up, maybe, or tell them we’re late—but that's not what these conversations were about. In fact, the ones that weren't excruciatingly boring ("How are the cats doing?") were weirdly personal. Leaving N.Y., my seatmate spent a good 20 minutes telling someone I have to guess is (was?) her boyfriend to shape up or she'd leave him. On the way back from Duluth, the girl in front of me told a friend about a confrontation with her stepfather.

The obvious thing would have been for me to tune these people out, but that's the thing: It's virtually impossible to ignore a conversation when you’re a few feet away from the person having it.

I'm not sure what the solution is here. Airlines could never get away with banning cell phones pre- and post-flight, so that's out. Really, it comes down to etiquette: Respect the people around you and keep your conversations to a minimum. Sadly, there’s no way to enforce good manners.

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