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What your ring tone says about you

Javier Sirett, 20, of Grand Concourse

Javier Sirett, 20, of Grand Concourse Credit: Javier Sirett, 20, of Grand Concourse, discusses his ring tone. See video below

Ringer, rap song or reggae music?

What your cell phone sounds like is just as important as what it looks like. With endless choices ranging from pop music hits to wild animal calls to TV show themes, customized ring tones help New Yorkers distinguish their phones from others in the crowd.

Though the ring tone market is in decline, with more people opting to text than call and more money to be made with smart phone apps, many are still picky about their ring tones, which experts say are a reflection of their personalities.

“What you do, what you wear, what comes out of your mouth and what comes out of your phone -- all these are how you express yourself,” said communications expert TJ Walker.

A man whose phone plays the “Jaws” theme when his wife calls, announces just as much to the world as a lawyer whose button-up image is inconsistent with his Daffy Duck ring tone, Walker said.

There are two reasons why you choose a ring tone, said psychologist Sam Gosling, author of “Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You.”

The first is an “identity claim,” an honest statement about your values and personality similar to that made with a bumper sticker or ironic T-shirt, Gosling said. The second is a “thought and feeling regulator,” or a ring tone that might remind you of a special person, time or place, he said.

Psychotherapist Graham Wilson contended that young people who choose pop-music ring tones often want to show that they fit in, while professionals who choose aggressive movie-theme ring tones typically are trying to add drama to their lives.

“They are all saying something, either to people around them or to reinforce something to themselves,” Wilson said.

Ring tones that simply ring, however, say just as much, Gosling countered.
“It could be because you’re low on openness …too busy to update the tone … don’t know how to fix it, or too cheap to buy a cool one,” he said.

Daniel Jaffe, 20, of Nolita, who keeps his iPhone on the preset ringer agreed with Gosling’s first assessment. “I’m fairly apathetic toward ringtones. I’d rather blend in than stand out. I don’t want to be that obnoxious person.”

Nearly everyone has had a movie, meeting or other quiet moment interrupted by wild and wacky cell phone rings. President Barack Obama was interrupted last year when a reporter’s phone began quacking mid-news conference. “Whose duck is that?” Obama joked.

Some experts predict that those moments may soon be a thing of the past as ringtones decline in popularity.

Though the careers of some musicians, including rap stars Soulja Boy and Mims, were boosted by fans buying ring tone versions of their songs, ring tone revenue in the U.S. is expected to be just $750 million this year, compared with $881 million in 2007, according to consumer analyst group IBIS World.

The group told Fortune magazine that the ringtone business will be nonexistent by 2016, made obsolete by the fact that more people are texting other rather than calling.

Cell phone users also are diverting their interest and their dollars to innovations such as ringback tones, music played for callers as they wait for you to pick up, and smartphone games such as Angry Birds or other apps.

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