The need for cell phone mealtime etiquette

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: June 13, 2011

It never fails, I am either on the phone with someone or trying to carry on a face to face conversation and I am met with someone breaking up the conversation to finish sending a text message. We've all been there and in all likeliness, we have had an important text message to finish and cut someone else off in the process. But that is only the beginning of the tale.

We are all increasingly dependent on our cell phones. They provide us with seamless connectivity, endless communication via social media and text messaging, news, sports scores and a plethora of information and entertainment. This reliance – or addiction rather – has changed the way we socialize and act in a public environment.

Since I work some pretty odd hours at times, my schedule doesn't exactly match up with a lot of my friends' and I tend to head out to dinner alone. Without the distraction of company, the irritating and impolite habits of people are amplified, tenfold. I have composed a list of what to do with your cell phone while out to eat with family, friends or co-workers.

Turn your ringer to silent, enable vibrate

It's easy to forget that you and your group are not the only ones in a restaurant, especially if the group is large. If the group is of ten or more people, they can generally be pretty loud. Adding an ongoing ringer or text tone to the background noise can and will quickly frustrate other guests.

Excuse yourself from the table

Answering a phone call at the table is an obvious no-no. It is rude to both the caller, the people you are dining with, and others in the restaurant. If you are out eating with a significant other, answering a phone call at the table can create tension and put your significant other in an awkward position. If you must take the call, excuse yourself from the table and take the call outside or to the bathroom.

Hold off on text messages

Just like answering a call, text messaging at the table is frustrating and unsettling for anyone not involved in the conversation. It causes some awkward silences and makes for a hard face-to-face conversation. Answering a text message or two is fine, but if you are going to text the entire time, you might as well be eating alone.

Games are for waiting rooms, not the dinner table

Games are more available now than ever, and one of the easiest ways to pass the time ... when you're alone. Playing Angry Birds while waiting on your food doesn't sound like a bad idea. But when you have several people at the table carrying on a conversation, your brooding over getting two stars or missing the last pig of the level is just plain annoying. Save those addicting games and high score battles for the waiting room at the doctor's office or during a flight layover.

Wait to check sports scores, Twitter, Facebook

This is not too different from excessive texting, but can also be extremely frustrating for the people you are dining with. Not everyone cares for the sports you are interested in and it's pretty embarrassing when someone at your table keeps getting angry or applauding the latest LeBron James blunder. While checking Twitter or Facebook isn't usually as intense as an upset sports fan, it will disconnect you from your party. The scores, Facebook and Twitter will all be there when you get home.

Save your own music for the car or home

This one just blows my mind. Why someone would be inclined to play their own music aloud from their cell phone while in a restaurant is beyond me. It is extremely rude and nobody wants to hear your music, especially in a quiet setting. If you want to listen to your own soundtrack, they do make headphones for that. This has only happened to me a few times, but that's more than enough.

I know these etiquette tips may seem obvious to some, but you would be surprised at how rude people can be with their cell phones, particularly at the dinner table. Every time I go out to eat – with or without friends – I find at least one person (usually more) not following some basic table etiquette. Sometimes, one out of the group I'm with is the culprit.

Next time you go out for a bite to eat, pay attention to how many people have their noses buried. You'll be surprised at how many tables have several people pecking away at their keyboards and touchscreens. Be mindful of your dinner friends and other guests. Remember these tips and try not to be that guy (or gal).

Image via NY Daily News

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