Do you bring your cell phone to the dinner table at home or in a restaurant?
Do you answer calls or text at the table? How about participating in a conference call while seated in a quiet cafe? Perhaps you’re not the culprit, but you’ve been disturbed by someone else and their public displays of business, child rearing or family gossip.
A SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT’S DILEMMA
I must admit that I’m somewhat torn about this topic. As a social media consultant, I encourage people to check-in to businesses, look for online deals, take pictures and upload them to Instagram, tweet, etc.
However, I’m finding that often people in public places on their cell phones are becoming more annoying to me. In my opinion, we need some formal rules of etiquette and also businesses, especially restaurants and cafes, should take a stand.
And some restaurants have taken that stand.
For example, NBCnews.com reports that one Los Angeles restaurant offers a discount to diners who “check” their phones. The diners interviewed have mixed opinions about this idea.
An article in the New York Times talks about restaurants in New York City who ban food photography because it’s too disruptive.
Someone even started a page on Facebook called Ban Cell Phones from Restaurants. They have 216 fans so far. (Warning: Coarse language in some posts.) This may look like a great place to vent, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to handle this challenge.
I recently was caught in the middle of an argument in a café between a man holding a very loud cell phone conversation and another man who yelled at the first man for doing so. They stood up, bumped chests, yelled and asked me what I thought. I told them they should both shut up.
Unfortunately, the etiquette around using cell phones is rather vague at the moment, although the experts in the Table Manners group on LinkedIn, led by Maria Erdman, suggests that the general rules of dining etiquette should apply.
SUGGESTED RULES OF CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE
For example, below are several scenarios and the suggested rules of cell phone etiquette:
You’re dining in a restaurant with friends and your cell phone vibrates. It’s a business call. What do you do?
To be proper, the best option is to ignore your cell phone completely, turning it off so calls go directly to voicemail. If you must look at your phone, you have a couple of choices:
1. Ignore the call until after your meal and give your full attention to your friends. Return the call after you leave the restaurant.
2. Excuse yourself from the table and take the call outside. Mobile calls should not be taken inside a restaurant or cafe.
Should cell phones be placed on the dining table?
According to the experts, personal items, including cell phones, small purses, etc., should never be placed on the table. If someone wants to share photos or a web page on the phone, and the entire party is involved, then this type of interaction is appropriate.
However, the phone should not be placed on the table beyond this activity.
You’re at dinner when your friend continues to text her children. Should you say something?
Yes. Politely ask her to either put her phone away or step outside to continue her conversation.
You’re in a quiet café where people around you are working on their computers, reading the paper and conversing quietly. You really need to call into a conference call with clients or co-workers. What do you do?
Cafés have become the new office for many workers today. Even so, people expect a certain level of respect and consideration by others.
Often participation in a conference call requires you to speak louder so others on the call may hear you. The café is not a place for this type of call.
Take your call elsewhere – sit in your car, go back to your office, find another appropriate place.
SIMPLE RULES TO REMEMBER
The bottom line: Follow these simple rules.
- Be courteous to those around you. If you see people giving you the evil eye, then leave the area to continue your call or text.
- Plan ahead for meetings and calls so you can find a private place.
- Don’t take pictures of your food unless you can be discreet and the restaurant allows such photography. Never use flash.
- When you’re dining with friends – be with your friends. Don’t text, tweet or otherwise use your cell phone.
That’s it – A start to the new rules of etiquette for a mobile world. Some of you will agree and some won’t.
Please tell us your thoughts below.