Smartphone etiquette – the do’s and don’ts of polite mobile usage

Etiquette used to be a simple business with obvious rules and regulations.  When all your phone did was ring, it was clear that you were to keep it on silent during a meal and only answer it in emergency situations, and even then you should excuse yourself.  Smartphones have shifted the goal posts so much now that nobody seems to know what to do and we all spend entire dinners clicking away while murmuring answers from bowed heads.  If you are guilty of this, take note.  Debrett’s, the etiquette authority, says this is far worse than having your elbows on the table.

Debrett’s has long established itself as the ‘modern authority on all matters etiquette, taste and achievement’.  Who better to advise us on mobile manners?  You may have been spending social outings glued to your mobile, thinking this was normal because ‘everybody does it.’  Well, let me tell you, you and all your handset-hugging friends couldn’t be more wrong. Or more rude –

Mobile manners


1. According to Debrett’s – “People in the flesh deserve more attention than a gadget, so wherever possible turn off your phone in social situations.”  Yes there may be a person tweeting you back on the other end of that phone but surely the person sitting in front of you deserves your undivided attention, seeing as they’ve actually gone through the trouble of travelling to be by your side?

2. “Don’t put your phone on the dining table, or glance at it longingly mid-conversation.”  If the red flashing light of your ever-ready Blackberry is going to spin you into a wild panic so you completely disengage from the conversation you’re already having then simply put it away.  Besides, keeping your phone in full sight at all times is just non-verbal disclosure that there’s something more important or more interesting happening out there and you can’t wait to be a part of it, despite already having company.

3. “Monitor the volume of your ringtone; if it blares out and heads turn it’s too loud.”  You may also want to re-think your Justin Beiber ringtone if you’re over fourteen.

4. “Don’t carry on mobile phone calls while transacting other business – in banks, shops, on buses and so on. It is insulting not to give people who are serving you your full attention.”  If you’re on a business lunch then surely you know to give your present company your undivided attention.  This would seem like common sense when you’re trying to seal a deal but it seems some people still need reminding.

5. “If you are awaiting an important call when meeting someone socially, explain at the outset that you will have to take the call, and apologise in advance. Otherwise, excuse yourself and withdraw somewhere private to make or receive calls. Do not have a mobile phone conversation in front of your friends. It is the height of bad manners…”  Enough said.

Restaurants are also taking a stand against bad mobile manners, with Eva, a restaurant in Los Angeles offering a discount to diners who leave their smartphone at the door.  The Telegraph reported that Mark Gold, the chef and owner of Eva, said: “It’s about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone.”

There you have it.  You have no more excuses about being ill-informed and you’ll have no excuse when your dinner date leaves before dessert because you haven’t looked at her once.  Be warned.


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