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Eradicate Cell Phones from the Dinner Table, the Emily Post Way

Julia Bainbridge

Anna Post, the great great granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post, visited Ali Wentworth on Yahoo’s own Daily Shot Tuesday to talk table manners and technology. In other words: What to Do When Your Lunch Date Is Spending All Her Time on Her iPhone and You’re About to Break a Glass. Don’t do that. Emily Post would not approve. 

Instead, Anna Post says there are two options: 1. The Passive Approach. “Just stop talking,” she says. “Then, the ball’s in their court to look up and start participating.” 2. The Humorous Approach. If the screen-tapper in question is a good friend, you can be more direct—just soften it with a joke. Wentworth suggests, “Is our intimate relationship interfering your spam deletions?” Good one. 

So that’s how you handle things if your dining partner is behaving badly, but how about avoiding it altogether? Here are some helpful tidbits from Chapter 19, Personal Communication Devices, in the 18th edition of great great grandma “Emily Post’s Etiquette”. 

"Without exception, turn your device off…in a restaurant…or anytime its use is likely to disturb others.” While this is true for special-occasion meals, dates, or extra-fancy restaurants (you know, those akin to places of worship), it’s not realistic for your everyday local-joint supper. For one, you might be dining alone and simultaneously working. (Oh, that’s just us?) Secondly, you might be with friends you’ve known since high school and it’s super casual and no one cares if you shoot a quick Instagram or respond to a text from your dad. Just be mindful: respond quickly and put the phone back in your pocket. 

“If you must be alerted to a call, put your device on silent ring or vibrate, and check your caller ID or voice mail later. (Put it in your pocket; a vibrating phone, skittering across a tabletop, is just as disruptive as a ring.)” Preach!

“Wherever you are, if you must make or take a call, move to a private space and speak as quietly as you can.” Hey, Lady Who Thinks That Call from Your Boss Re: Tomorrow’s Lunch Meeting Is a Matter of Life and Death, we’re talking to you. Enjoy your dinner and your company and handle it in the evening or first thing in the morning. You’ve got plenty of hours to freak out about things later. 

It’s not just the sound of phones that can be disturbing, the backlight is just as bad. That’s why we recommend keeping the phone either off or in your pocket. “Even though texts are silent, when you text, your attention is elsewhere, not on the people you’re with.”

Now, we want to file some kind of petition that will get more “No Cell Phones” signs in restaurants across the country. Who’s with us?

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