When You Should—and Shouldn’t—Use Your Cell Phone In Public

Leah Bourne
smartphones When You Should—and Shouldnt—Use Your Cell Phone In Public

Photo: Adam Katz Sinding/Le 21ème

Most of us are careful to a fault to not chew with our mouths open, to always say please and thank you, and to wait for others to finish speaking before speaking ourselves, but no matter how polite we strive to be in our daily lives, mastering smartphone etiquette remains a tough one for pretty much everyone. Let’s face it, most of us are attached at the hip to our phones, so it’s hard to put them aside during social situations, no matter how much we have an inkling that we probably should. Furthermore, it’s not like our parents grew up with smartphones, and therefore never passed onto us their steadfast smartphone etiquette rules—most of us are making those up as we go.

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Well, it seems we’re getting some answers on the matter. The go-to guide for etiquette conundrums, The Debrett Handbook, has just released its newest edition based on more than 10,000 reader questions about manners received over the last year and—no surprise—people are highly confused about when it’s appropriate to whip out their mobile phones in public.

The verdict, according to Debrett’s: “It is always rude to pay more attention to a phone than a person in the flesh, and they should always be put away when transacting other business—for example, when you’re paying for something in a shop…They should be switched off in theatres, cinemas (including during the trailers), art galleries, or any space where silence is desired.”

Editor Jo Bryant, who compiled the manners guide, told The Telegraph: “The sheer number of inquiries we receive demonstrates manners are still hugely important to people … It can be a minefield knowing how to behave in social situations, but the key is to always consider those around you.”

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Other etiquette topics that are tackled in the book include when it’s appropriate to kiss in public, blind copying (BCC) in emails, and if it’s ever okay to eat before everyone is served (the answer to that is unless you get permission from the host, absolutely never).

How are you doing with smartphone etiquette? Share your experiences in the comments!

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