We know to put away our phones at the front of the line and keep public phone calls short and quiet.
But when it comes to checking our phone while we’re with family and friends, it’s complicated.
My Sunday column proposed nine points of tech etiquette that might have enough consensus to hold. From the completely unscientific polls I attached to each, many appear to. Eighty-five percent of you said you “always” keep public phone calls polite and 82 percent said you follow the Golden Rule of Facebook: Never post pictures of others you wouldn’t want posted of yourself.
But when it comes to using your phone while “engaged in an activity with friends or family” (notice it doesn’t say just hanging out with friends or family) only 55 percent of you said you “always” put it away or excuse yourself when you need to use it. Forty-one percent said you “sometimes” do that.
As I said in the column, this area of tech etiquette is big, maybe the biggest. The fact that it’s so split says a lot. Our phones are handy tools for all kinds of things, but we know that’s not the only thing that keeps them close. Let’s face it. Our phones are the anti-bore. When the physical world ceases to interest us, we know, something in the digital one certainly will.
The sunset won’t be offended if you turn away to check your email. But the friends you’re playing a board game with certainly might.
I’m pressing the point because I think it’s important that we know what messages we send when we put our phones — even for a moment — above other people.
Like anything, they vary according to the circumstances. Is your group sitting back or leaning forward? Are they paying attention or just lounging around? If you want to check your phone discreetly, under the table and out the corner of your eye (we can tell, by the way), you’re probably at least aware that it’s not the best time to do it.
Checking your phone with no explanation in the middle of an active, engaged activity is the quickest way to tell your friends they’re boring you. Just make sure it’s what you want to say.