We have all heard it. You will be in the middle of a quiet setting when an annoying, comical, or just downright inappropriate ringtone breaks the silence. In class today, we were studying American Gothic, the famous picture we have all seen of the farmer and his wife standing expressionless in front of their farmhouse. When the questions was posed to the class, “What can you infer about their relationship just based off this image,” a phone sounded. The ringtone? The chorus to Kenny Chesney’s hit song… wait for it…. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy! While this was really funny and caused an uproar in the class, there are other situations in which this is not such a good thing.
Two And A Half Men
Season six, episode nine of the hit show Two and a Half Men depicts a similar situation with a much different outcome. The teenaged character Jake has met a new female neighbor, and the two seem to be hitting it off. Charlie, Jake’s uncle, has a “big” problem with the relationship. The young lady’s father is played by Michael Clarke Duncan, the enormous man who played John Coffey in The Green Mile. He is not too keen on the idea of his daughter spending her time with Jake.
Puppy love takes over, and the juvenile couple find themselves late. The girl’s father goes to Jake’s home, where Charlie answers the door. Charlie continues to assure him that the kids are perfectly fine, but, for reassurance, he calls Jake’s phone… which he did not take with him. The phone is laying just a few feet away, and the ringtone is a derogatory rap melody demeaning women. The awkward dialogue that followed was comical for the viewer, because this would be a very bad position to find yourself in.
Keeping Dignity in Mind
We love our phones. Next time you are in a social setting, pay attention to how often phones are pulled out of pockets and checked. In a sense, we have developed a deep relationship with these devices, so it only makes sense that we would want to personalize them. While a certain song or audio piece may tell a bigger story about our individualism, it is necessary to show our deeper selves in a more subtle and gradual manner. As with my last post, the social penetration theory comes into play. We tend to reveal ourselves in layers, just like an onion.
Another situation occurred in the grocery store the other day. A younger man and older woman were shopping together when a ringtone blared out of the man’s pocket. The song was strongly referencing to drug use and getting high. You should have seen the look the woman gave this young man, and he seemed to know he was in trouble when they got back in the car!
Implicit Personality Theories
Whether we like to admit or not, we pass judgment everyday, often without even noticing. These judgements point to the legitimacy of implicit personality theories. For example, when meeting someone new, we make presumptions based off the information we gather upon introduction. This allows us to reduce uncertainty and helps us feel that we know the person better. If, during an introductory conversation, a hard rock ringtone plays, we may use certain stereotypes to understand that person’s lifestyle such as a tendency for rebellious behavior. In reality, that song may be significant to the person for a number of reasons, not necessarily painting the correct picture of that person’s true self. This can cause us to communicate incompetently with these individuals.
It’s true. We make assumptions about people, and these have been identified as Gestalts, or the general vibes we get from people that are either positive or negative. We like to encourage positive Gestalts to be formed about ourselves, thus increasing our network of friends and colleagues. What that means, however, is that we tend to hide our inner secrets and personality traits from the general public. Anyone know someone who lost their job over a Facebook post? It happens all the time. We live in a highly technical day and age, and the information we choose to share about who we are can come back to haunt us.
Four Questions to Consider When Choosing Your Next Ringtone
I recently purchased a new phone, and I had the option to buy ringtones. However, I chose to go with the traditional Melodic Bell option programmed on the phone. When considering a ringtone to assign your phone, there are a few questions you must ask yourself:
- Would my family be offended if they heard this?
- Could this ringtone be disruptive in a social or public setting?
- Are there expletives that could cause a negative Gestalt to be formed about me?
- Is the selection in this ringtone a result in something negative going on in my life that is temporary and not a definition of who I am?
We all have our ups and downs. When picking a ringtone, understand that it can ring at any time and in any setting, and it should be one that reflects you in a positive light. As relationships form, you can slowly begin to reveal your inner workings. Don’t be the guy who everyone turns to look at during that highly awkward moment!