Friday, September 6, 2013

Texting is Rude: Social Etiquette on Living with a Smart Phone

It's time to talk about cell phone etiquette.

Yep, I said it, and yes I mean you.

The past few years have seen a tremendous rise in cell phone usage and ownership. Even in Canada, where the rates for cell phone packages are among the highest in the world, everyone and their dog has a cell/smart phone.

Andrew and I were probably among the last of our friends to bite the cell phone bullet. There were a variety of reasons, and I'm glad we made the decision. About six months ago we cancelled our home phone and upgraded to the coveted iPhone status.

And now I am available 24/7... I'm finding myself frustrated by a variety of aspects of Life With a Smart Phone. I'm also getting pretty.damned.annoyed with how we, as a society, are allowing our smart phones to intrude into our social lives. I realized just how much it bugged me when my FATHER, who turns off the tv in the living room, demands we all sit at the table together to eat and that there never be hats on at the table, was texting during our meal last week. When I pointed out just how rude he was being, he was surprised.

I think that our social etiquette for smart phones just hasn't caught up to our everyday reality. So I thought I'd share a few tips, suggestions and thoughts on Living with a Smart Phone:

1. Texting is not an alternative to a conversation.
It took me a few months to figure out why I was so effing annoyed when receiving texts. Seriously, there is NOTHING more annoying than constantly being interrupted in your day by someone trying to have an actual "what're you doing" conversation via texts. I HATE IT. If you want to text me for a quick, fact check- like "what time will you be here?" or "do you want to go to the movies?" that is fine and dandy. But please don't disrupt my every day life with a stilted, texted conversation forcing me to be tied to my phone for an hour. CALL ME. You are holding a phone that is capable of that, you know.

2. Know how to use social media appropriately.
Don't text me when an email or facebook message would have been better. Texting is immediate and disruptive. And no matter the "just turn your phone on vibrate" the expectation is that a response would be immediate. If you don't need an immediate answer, just email or facebook me, mmmkay?

3. Texting in a social situation is RUDE. 
Yep, you know how if you take a phone call, or ignore a person while chatting or socialization is rude? Guess what texting is? Texting or checking social media while hanging out with friends implies that a) You are bored b) You're not listening or c) You're not interested. Phone use during social situations also literally means that you have decided to have a separate, MORE IMPORTANT conversation with some other person instead of who you are out with. Just because it's silent, does not mean that it is ANY different than chatting on the phone AND chatting with your friends.

4. Texting during an appointment is RUDE
Look, I understand that as a parent you need to have your phone on in case of child-related emergencies (yoga teachers, this one is for all the posts on how terrible it is when the phone rings during a yoga class. You have no idea if that phone call was because a child had a seizure, is projectile vomiting at daycare, or has a fever of 102 and needs to be taken to the hospital- don't judge). HOWEVER, texting is NOT for emergencies. The sad reality is that it happens weekly that I have parents, during a parent-training session, who text. I mean, we're sitting at the little kid table, I'm explaining test results, or demonstrating a therapy technique with their child, and the parent has their phone out and is texting. I'm considering having a clause in our therapy contract regarding texting during therapy sessions, it has gotten so bad.

5. Don't Smart Phone and Drive!!! 
It's dangerous and kills people. Don't believe me? Watch this ridiculously moving 20min doc by famous filmmaker Werner Herzog. I dare you.

How to be a Polite Smart Phone User

When out with friends, at a party, at a pub, at a restaurant or friend-family meal (wherever that may be) try the following with your phone:

    1. Put it on "Do Not Disturb Mode" so that it only rings or texts when pre-approved family or emergency-type members call or text. This way, if there are certain numbers you really can't miss if they call (and they likely will only call for an emergency or something urgent) you are covered. 
    2. If DND isn't an option: put your phone on vibrate.
    3. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Seriously. Why do you need your phone in sight? Having the phone on the table visually shows that you potentially may have more interesting people to chat with or things to do. Just Put.It.Away.
    4. If you can't put your phone away for whatever reason: Pile all the cell phones on top of each other in the middle of the table. The first person who reaches for their phone pays the bill. Yep. You heard me. If you can't be polite enough to be interested in your friends, then you can pay the bill.
    5. If you receive a text... IGNORE IT. The world will not implode if you don't check the text and you know what- the text will still be there later...I promise. Even though the sound is disruptive, by ignoring the text you are showing your friends and family that THEY are more important.
Still need convincing? Check out this sad, but true, short video on just how disconnected we are becoming and I *doubledare* you to deny that you haven't witnessed, or done most of these Rude Smart Phone Acts. It's time we take a step back and get real people; no one wants to be the Lame-o SmartPhone Friend. Let's take a breath and Connect in Person instead. I swear it's better.


  1. Agreed. Yes, we are all guilty at one time or another of one (or more) of these. Doesn't make it right. I agree with your number one - stop texting me constantly - call me. I have noticed that people don't make calls much anymore, fine whatever, maybe email me the info instead. I love it when I get "did you get the text I just sent?" texts. grrrr.

  2. I completely disagree about calling over texting. For someone who hates talking on the phone with a family who hates talking on the phone, texting was the greatest thing ever invented. I love that you can get right to the point without having to go through polite smalltalk first, and when you run out of things to say, you just stop texting without having to go through that awkward, "well, I've got to go now" or listening to the other perdon ramble. I also feel like texts are much less disruptive and time consuming than a text. My family constantly has a five-way conversation going through texts. It doesn't replace phone calls or face to face conversations, but it's a nice addition. Maybe if you prefer not to use texts that way, you should let your friends know. But I always tell people, "Please don't call me. Send a text."

  3. I have shamefully done some of these. But, I am getting out of that habit. Having worked for a cell phone company it was accepted as a social norm to be on your phone around people. So I got used to doing just that. Now I always put my phone in my purse or face down on the table if it needs to be out. That little red blinking light can be just as annoying as seeing messages come in. Great post!

  4. I tend to agree. It's is a text "message" emphasis on communicating a message not idle conversation. It's very very useful. But if you are texting back and forth you may as well talk real time.

  5. Agree with most but not all. For me getting a message via Facebook is the most offensive - it's the last thing I check, and when I found out my grandmother died via Facebook message I was furious. I completely agree that people should not be texting when you're in an appointment or lunch or any kind of social gathering. The moms are the worst- manners seem to go out the door because "I have kids". I prefer text instead of phone calls for certain situations - if someone's going to be late, just has a simple question, or when my partner just wants to tell me he loves me in the middle of the day :) Not everyone is in a physical location where they can make a phone call - and with how loud some people speak on their cell phones sometimes it's nice to have a text instead LOL. So my personal rule is, if it gets to be a true conversation, then I ask them to pick up the phone.

    We all went through what you're going through when we got our cell phones though - I got rid of my landline 13 years ago. These days, my smartphone (Android) is how I often get my emails and texts from clients... and is what I'm reading your blog from right now :-)

  6. very good information. I was going home from work after an early rise at 3:00AM. When I noticed a young girl texting and walking without noticing that I was there. She looked up at the last minute I came stop allowing her to pass. Instead of hurrying past she went back to texting and taking her time to pass. I got annoyed and leaned on the horn. She started to yell at me so I yelled back " DON'T TEXT ON MY TIME!!!!". Please, If you wouldn't mind pass this information on for me. Everyone seems to think that the world stop for them. Sorry " IT DOSEN'T! Thank you.


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