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.