Asking for a Friend: Is It Rude to Use Your Phone at the Dinner Table?

Miss Conduct on whether texting over tuna tartare is ever OK
Instagraming Dinner Companion
Photo: Unsplash/Pexels

We're back, angels and heathens, and we're ready to throw down on a very, very important and frequently debated issue. So take your seat, silence your phones and get ready to rumble, because here comes our question, hot off Quora.com's (virtual) press.

User Ingrid Burling asks:

When you're with company, is it rude to be on your cell phone texting and looking things up instead of engaging with the person you are with?

A friend of mine, whenever we go out, completely ignores me when I try to converse with her. She is on her phone texting unless we are talking about her problems. I listen attentively and provide her with my best advice, but I don't get the same in return from her. What can I do to put down her phone?

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Well, Ms. Burling, there are two things going on here. First, yes, it's 100 percent rude to sit at a dinner table swiping away on your cell phone instead of engaging in conversation. I have struggled with this situation time and time again, sitting silently while everyone from a date to a friend to a parent (yes, even our elders have been known to miss the bar here) blatantly ignores my efforts to discuss the latest All Things Considered fodder or whether or not Get Out is the greatest film of our generation. It is frustrating, sure, but it's also hurtful.

It makes the phone-less companion feel inadequate and unvalued, and those feelings never make for a pleasant night out.

Trust me, I get the impulse—it's much easier to look up the year Steel Magnolias was released rather than aimlessly toss around your best guesses. But where's the fun in that? What happened to banter, to healthy debate, to looking it up when you got home and texting a link to Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" to indicate your victory? I dream of a return to such mental stimulation.

Regardless of their motivation, these iJunkies are in the wrong. If you must, must, must have your phone out, the least you can do is silence it, turn it facedown and attend to it only during natural breaks in conversation, like when your co-diner gets up to see a man about a horse. Only then may you check a quick text or snap that vital pic of your pristine avocado toast. And, for the love of Pete, please return your phone to its downright and locked position as soon as that moment eclipses. No exceptions, no excuses.

And, secondly, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this "friend" is no friend of yours. She sounds self-obsessed, rude and, frankly, like a jerk. My advice? Drop her like a lost call.

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