Social Question

Jeruba's avatar

What makes people think their phone calls are private when they talk outdoors?

Asked by Jeruba (52223points) 1 month ago

Where do you suppose people get the idea that when they use the phone outdoors, they are less audible than inside? With no walls to stop it, the voice carries very well, especially since people outside tend to use their outdoor voice.

I can tell you what kind of pizza the woman across the street orders and what the man next door says to his girlfriends in the privacy of his backyard. In summer I have to keep my windows shut if I don’t want to be privy to his social life.

My son steps outside to have a private conversation and I can hear every word. I wish he’d just go to his room.

Can’t people figure out that if they can hear others shouting into the phone at the beach, in the store, and on their front steps, we can hear them too?

I, for one, would rather not.

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46 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I’m not sure, but I think it may be related to some people not realizing the glass of their car windows is clear from both sides.

There is a ven diagram in the making here.

anniereborn's avatar

Maybe they just don’t want the people they are living with to hear them, but don’t care about strangers. I find it very annoying. Especially in stores.

Mimishu1995's avatar

Maybe they are just not concerned about privacy? I don’t know about the US, but here it’s a very common thing, and I won’t be so surprised if I see people like that around me. I’m not saying there are people who are but aren’t aware they are not being secretive, but we don’t know what they want when we can’t ask them.

And also I think @anniereborn has a point.

JLeslie's avatar

Maybe they are concerned with disturbing the people they live with while speaking loudly, or want privacy from the person they live with.

They also might not be realizing they are allowing the entire neighborhood to listen in, I’m not discounting that possibility, but I usually step outside because my husband is watching TV or on a business call. Sometimes I go outside because it’s gorgeous out. I don’t care if the neighbors know I’m planning to go to the pool at 2:00.

janbb's avatar

I have that with my neighbors who both talk on the phone outside and sit around their pool until late talking which is right under my bedroom window. You often also hear people talking loudly on the phone on the train. Most annoying but I agree that they don’t seem to care.

Zaku's avatar

When people talk on the phone in public multi-person bathrooms, even while in the toilet stall themselves, always makes an impression on me.

I sort of know one person’s answer to this question, who is hard of hearing and unsure how loudly they need to talk to be heard even in person, and moreso on the phone. That person, while usually quite thoughtful of others, often does not get the notion that others might not want information to be said to others.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think some people, especially the yellers, do it for attention.

jca2's avatar

I think people either don’t care who hears them or they think they look like big shots, strutting around with their phones.

You can always pick up your phone, pretend there’s someone on the other end, and talk about your neighbor so he overhears it. “Yeah, that’s the idiot next door screaming into his phone.”
haha.

cookieman's avatar

@Zaku: I’ve overheard a few people, in an adjacent stall, in a public bathroom, pick up their ringing phone and engage in a full conversation. They made no effort to speak quietly or to even hide what they were doing from whoever was on the other line.

I heard someone say, “Yeah, yeah, no worries. I’m just on the can” followed by the associated, um…noises.

Were I the caller on the other end, I’d hang up immediately. And maybe never call them again.

jca2's avatar

If I’m someplace in public where I feel self conscious about others hearing my conversation, I let it go to voicemail or I will answer it and tell the caller I’ll call them back. If I’m on the calling end, I don’t prefer to talk to people when I know they’re distracted by shopping or other things. As soon as someone tells me they’re in a store or a hotel lobby or someplace like that, I say let me call you another time, or call me back when you’re free.

Forever_Free's avatar

Because they think they are in a cone of silence.

janbb's avatar

@Forever_Free Well, they are the most important person in the world, aren’t they?

Forever_Free's avatar

@janbb did you mean impotent?

janbb's avatar

^^ You say “impotent” and I say “impirtant”!

janbb's avatar

^^ But I’m devastated!

Forever_Free's avatar

@janbb hardly what i meant

smudges's avatar

@Forever_Free Because they think they are in a cone of silence.

And under a cloak of invisibility.

rockfan's avatar

When I was at a coffee shop last week, some guy got a call and walked outside to take it. Talking loudly, we still heard him say “I’m pretty sure Tim knows that Tom date raped her.”

Everyone was in a collective depression for a while.

SnipSnip's avatar

If you are concerned about privacy, get rid of your mobile phone.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

Sometimes it’s only a fluke, as when a person is outdoors for a reason, and a call comes in. And the conversation can be hilarious at times. I went by a friends construction site recently, to pay him some money I had lost on a football bet. (Yeah, betting on sports is a crapshoot, oh well.) Anyway, I saw he was busy so I juts handed him the money, and started to go on my way. He pointed at this phone and motioned to me to wait up. He was telling someone I assumed to one in authority, that “You know, I can walk of this shit job in a heartbeat, and find another job with a better company!” But both he and the CEO or whoever it was, were talking so loud, I could even hear the other dude loud and clear. He said, turn in you lap top and gas card, and get of of my job!” He replied, “Shove them up your ass, they’ll be in the office”. LOL

janbb's avatar

@SnipSnip I don’t think the OP is concerned about their own privacy but other people’s lack of it. Getting rid of their phone won’t help the noise pollution.

SnipSnip's avatar

@janbb I said nothing about noise pollution. The question was about privacy.

Jeruba's avatar

@SnipSnip, actually @janbb read the details correctly: the first line says “audible,” and the concluding point is about noise:

“Can’t people figure out that if they can hear others shouting into the phone at the beach, in the store, and on their front steps, we can hear them too?”

The two aspects are intertwined: I don’t want to hear their business and I don’t want to hear their voices going on and on and on within earshot even when I am inside my house with the doors and windows closed. This happens so often—with different neighbors—that it’s like rubbing a sore spot.

I used “privacy” in the subject line because I presume that these days most people care more about their own concerns (their privacy) than about courtesy to others (my discomfort and annoyance); but really it’s about being forced to listen in on anyone else’s conversation that should be private—even a pizza order. I can’t make my silence louder than their noise.

The puzzling part—and hence the question—is simply that it seems these folks think the laws of physics don’t apply to them, no more than any other rules (such as common courtesy) apply to them. So hearing others speak too loud on the phone doesn’t communicate anything about their own behavior.

I liked it better when the only outdoor phones were pay phones in a telephone booth, and even then there was usually a door to close.

My privacy is not at issue because I don’t do this. I keep my business to myself. I just wish others would too, when they’re not addressing a welcoming and sympathetic audience.

raum's avatar

Is it more annoying to overhear a phone conversation than an in person conversation?

Or is it a volume thing? Since people tend to speak louder on a phone?

Dutchess_III's avatar

People tend to talk louder on the phone, for one thing.
An in person conversation isn’t as annoying.

raum's avatar

What makes it more annoying?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Because you can hear both sides of the conversation vs one person yelling into a void.

raum's avatar

If the volume is the same as an in person conversation, is the one person talking into the void still more annoying?

Sorry for the persistent questions. But curious as to why this annoys people.

Since I often hear “I don’t want to hear their business.” as a common reason why it’s annoying. Yet hearing half of their business is more annoying than hearing both sides of their business.

I genuinely find this intriguing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

People yelling is annoying. In person or on the phone.

Brian1946's avatar

Who here has accidentally yelled at someone, because you were wearing headphones and listening to music, while conversing with that person?

JLeslie's avatar

@raum I feel similar to you that if people are speaking at a reasonable volume it doesn’t matter if they are on the phone or it’s two people in person. Some people seem to be very annoyed with people talking on the phone in public places. I think mostly people view it as rude, but I can’t speak for others, maybe it’s not that.

A separate issue is that many people do speak louder while on the phone than in an in-person conversation. I tend to do that. In person the other person listening not only hears you, but they are watching your lips and mannerisms, I think that’s partly why.

raum's avatar

@JLeslie Someone (IRL) gave an interesting answer to my question.

They said that the phone call is more distracting because their brain tries to fill in the other half of the conversation. So it’s harder to ignore.

For me, ignoring one voice is easier than ignoring two.

Maybe it’s also harder for a lot of people to ignore something that they perceive as rude? Less auditory and more social?

raum's avatar

@Jeruba Sorry to semi-hijack your question. I had a hard time answering it, because the premise assumes that the person on the phone thinks their conversation is private.

I will talk on the phone anywhere I’d be comfortable having that particular conversation. My backyard or my front porch are both fair game for most phone calls.

I rarely have phone conversations that I’d consider private. If I do, I’ll go into a room and shut the door.

JLeslie's avatar

@raum Maybe a two person conversation is more likely to become white noise, because of the rhythm of the conversation, while one side of a conversation is more jarring to overhear. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. Your comments caused me to really consider what are the differences when hearing only part of a conversation.

I also had trouble with the assumption that the person on the phone assumes privacy.

SnipSnip's avatar

@Jeruba Your question was about privacy. That is what I addressed.

smudges's avatar

@Brian1946 Who here has accidentally yelled at someone, because you were wearing headphones and listening to music, while conversing with that person?

Or the people who raise their voice when talking to someone who doesn’t speak English – as if that will help them understand. Humans are odd.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What about visitors who take their phone calls in the middle of the gathering, or while people are trying to watch a movie?
We’ve lost our damn minds over cell phones.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Rick used to take his calls in the middle of what ever program we were watching, until I started turning the TV off (explaining later that it’s rude to the person on the other end to subject them to that background noise) and then just staring at him. He now takes his calls in another room.

Jeruba's avatar

@SnipSnip, I guess you must know better than I what my question was about.

SnipSnip's avatar

@Jeruba My point is that I answered the question; I didn’t read your narrative though.

janbb's avatar

@Mimishu1995 It seems that people sometimes don’t bother to read the details which often help explain the question being asked.

Jeruba's avatar

@janbb, or even the question itself: if I ask

What makes people think their phone calls are private when they talk outdoors?

somebody might think I’m asking

How do I protect my privacy when I’m talking on the phone?

But only if they didn’t really even read the question.

In any case, reading the details might help clarify the question. Often the OP’s real question comes at the end of the details and not at the top.

But some people are more interested in posting a “clever” sharp retort than actually giving a thoughtful or helpful or even genuinely humorous answer.

So—yes, @Mimishu1995, it is.

Mimishu1995's avatar

And seems like @SnipSnip didn’t get what I’m implying :P I wonder if they have clicked on the link at all.

Jeruba's avatar

Probably not, @Mimishu1995. Details aren’t important, you know? Or narratives.

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