Nope, It’s Still Not OK To Use Your Phone at Dinner

Over at Techrunch, there’s a douche-ily titled post called “I Will Check My Phone At Dinner And You Will Deal With It,” by MG Siegler. Its content is fairly self-explanatory: the writer insists that checking your phone while having dinner with friends — despite his mother’s protests — is the wave of the future, and so it’s not rude.

Siegler asserts that there are several good reasons why we should all just STFU already and accept it when he and his ilk text, tweet, check-in and go online at restaurants (and I paraphrase…):

1. Being on your smartphone enhances the conversation if, say, you’re looking up a fact that no one can seem to remember.

2. Dinners are boring anyway.

3. Everybody’s doing it.

I’m pretty sure that the author isn’t a teenager, although in typing that summary I was forced to do a little background research to confirm.

Nope, judging by appearances, he’s pretty much a grown-up man.

So. Let’s take his reasons (as summarized by me) one by one.

Being on your smartphone enhances the conversation if, say, you’re looking up a fact that no one can seem to remember. That’s actually true. But this scenario isn’t what anyone is ever talking about when they say that using the phone during dinner is rude. In this situation, everyone is participating in a conversation, and when you whip it out, everyone is involved. In other words, using a phone to look up a fact to add to the conversation is, in and of itself, a social act, and actually doesn’t really count towards the discussion of whether phone use is rude.

Dinners are boring anyway. Commenters on the post pretty much called Siegler on this one by saying that if he was that bored with his friends he probably needed new friends, but I need look no further than my mother’s wisdom for a reply to this ridiculous assertion: if you’re bored, you’re boring.

Everybody’s doing it. Or, as Siegler says, “you feel awkward if everyone else is using their phones and you’re not.” First of all, I don’t think this is true, unless you’re friends with a bunch of 15-year-olds. I know people put their phones out on the table. I’m guilty of doing that. But there’s a big difference between putting your phone on the table to, say, keep track of time, and picking up that phone periodically to randomly check your work email while the person you’re with is trying to talk to you.

Look — the bottom line is this. If you’re using your cell phone while in conversation with one or two other people, to read something that has nothing to do with said conversation and thereby ostracizes you or your companion, interrupts a conversation, changes the subject or makes someone wait for you to take care of an unrelated item, you’re being rude.

And I’m saying this as a 31-year-old woman — I’m not 17, but I’m also not 60. When my friends bust out their phones to text or email when I’m in the middle of telling them something (and I have a few that do), I’m offended and pissed off. And somehow, I don’t think that being disrespected, ignored and summarily rejected like that will ever become a social norm.

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    • Danielle

      My boyfriend does this at the dinner table sometimes. It drives me fucking nuts. I’ve spent a long day at work and when I come home I want to have decompression time by way of enjoying a meal with him and his son over good food and fun conversation. When people whip their phones out in the middle of dinner they mentally checked-out. Dinner time to me is a shared ritual among friends and family. How can you engage and connect with people if your mind is constantly somewhere else?

    • Eileen

      If the phone actually makes a noise, I don’t mind if the person opens it to keep it from beeping that he has a new text, or picks it up and says politely to the person on the line, “Sorry, I’m in the middle of dinner; I’ll call you back,” and then apologizes to me. And yeah, looking up stuff on your smartphone when we’re all trying to figure something out is NOT the “using your phone at the dinner table” that people get pissed about. By the way, I’m 22, and my friends abide by these rules, so unless we’ve aged out of his age set before graduating college…

      I think the moral of the article is that we will not be having dinner with MG Siegler.

    • porkchop

      I feel so much pressure from other people’s phones. If I don’t keep them fully engaged every second, they will take their phone out and leave me hanging, awkward and alone. If you’re hanging out with someone, your attention should be on them, or on things you can share.

    • Chelsea

      This guy sounds like the worst. I was on a date once and we got in a friendly argument over some bit of trivia. I told him to look it up on his phone and he refused since his mother raised him with no phones at the table. That’s how it should be!

    • Taylor

      AMEN TIMES TEN. I’m a good decade younger than you and I think it’s the most obnoxious and annoying thing. If something’s truly important, I won’t be offended if you say something along the lines of, “Hey, this is the airline calling me back and I really need to book this flight. Do you mind if I take it?” But just browsing Twitter while we’re trying to chat? Never okay.

      When I explained to my boyfriend that he was essentially stating through his actions that the Internet/Angry Birds was more important and interesting than me, he finally got it. Jeez.

    • Gimmy

      Yeah, I’m a teenager and I wouldn’t even do this, this guy sounds like a total dick. There’s no problem if your phone goes off and you need to see what it is, or if you’re pulling it out to look up something we were talking about, but I just feel ignored if my friends are looking at a screen instead of talking.

    • steph

      My fiancĂ© does this a lot. Whenever I’m talking to him and he pulls out his phone and browses on it, I stop talking until he puts it away or realizes that I’m not talking anymore.

    • B

      Damn those Angry Birds.

    • sanneb

      We have a rule of no phones at the dinner table (no matter where it is). One friend when she eats with us took a little training, but now even if she gets a call or a text has learned to ignore it until dinner is over.