When I go out to dinner with friends, or with the wife, I rarely take my cell phone with me. If I do, it's usually off as a sign of respect. There's nothing more annoying than having someone over and their phone keeps ringing or vibrating away. What is the proper etiquette when it comes to smartphones and friends?
There's only a few professions that involve being reachable at all times. Most of us can do without being connected for a few hours. Nowadays, with texting and smartphones, it's not uncommon to see your teenager texting away blindingly fast while he's eating dinner with the family. What are the rules in your house?
In our house, we switch off all cell phones when we eat together. They mostly stay off during the evening as well, as past a certain hour, we don't want to be disturbed. Many people have come to realize that instead of freeing them, smartphones can become a sort of electronic leash. In William Gibson's Zero History, one of his characters has got a Faraday Pouch, a pouch which cuts off any electronic signals from things that are inserted into it. The My Phone Is Off phenomenon is similar, yet not as effective. We are used to having our phones on at all times and being able to check email, Google something, or check out the web at a moment's notice when we need to.
What about when you go to a friend's house? It all depends on how old you are and what you do with your phone. For example, if you're going over to a friend's house before going out to a club or bar, it's natural to have your phone on, as you probably want to be reached by other friends, who might be joining you at some point. But what if you are going for dinner at a friend's house, to watch a movie, or play some games? It can be seen as being rude if you're constantly on the phone while you're at your friend's place. It also disconnects you from what is happening in reality. Answering your phone or texting once or twice is not really a problem. It becomes a problem if you can't let go of it.
When we go out to dinner, cell phones are off. Interrupting a dinner with a call or text is a faux pas, no matter what your age, unless you're a teenager. Even then, most families have rules about this as well. Even with phones on vibrate, everyone can hear them. I've actually been able to wake up using a vibrating alarm.
If in any of these situations, you do get a call that's important, it's usually common courtesy to excuse yourself, and go into another room or outside to answer your phone. I find this classy and I've had to do this in the past when talking to clients at all hours of the day while I was away from work.
[header image by The Life Files]