Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Texting At Dinner Is Rude!

When I was coming up in the 70's and 80's passing notes in class was the hip way of asking a girl if she thought you were cute or not. It was all quite easy: all she had to do was circle "Yes" or "No", and then you just prayed that the note at least came back to you. Now, if she couldn't be bothered to circle anything that was worse than being being told "No". Translation: If your note wasn't returned at all, it meant she thought you were an un-hot dork on unspeakable levels. Talk about a cold dismissal. LOL

Needless to say, passing notes while class was in session was considered rude, uncouth and a surefire way to get in a hot mess with the teacher. Aside from the note coming back with "No" circled, nothing would be possibly worse than getting caught by the instructor and enduring his glaring stink-eye. Why? Well, such behavior silently told the teacher that whatever he had to say wasn't nearly as important as what you had to say in that oh-so-nifty-folded piece of paper.

Today, we've become greatly advanced in terms of technology and communication. I'm not sure if kids even pass notes in class these days (and yes, I feel really old saying this), but I'm pretty sure that cell phones and iPADs are the new culprits school teachers are waging war with. Text messaging during class is no doubt just as rude as passing notes was back in my day. And by extension, such habits are equally innappropriate in other areas of life...take the dinner table for instance.

Let's be frank here: everyone agrees that texting while eating dinner is rude but when it’s you, it's amazing how easy it is to rationalize it, right? So, to avoid coming across like a total hypocrite, I will raise my right hand and readily admit that I’ve suffered from RTWD Syndrome (Rapid Thumb-Tapping While Dining). Testify! I love my job and in my line of work, I literally get dozens of text messages from clients, contactors, and vendors nearly every hour of the day--and that's not even counting the tons of daily notifications from Twitter and other online outlets. In other words, my cell phone is always beeping and it's a challenge for me not to answer it at dinner. But  I know it's poor taste to text in front of others, and it behooves me to excuse myself to the nearest restroom or foyer to handle my business. Yep, just like passing notes in class, texting at dinner essentially tells your fellow guests that whatever they have to say is not ranking as high with you as it is with them.

RTWD Syndrome has proven to be a real dampener for couples too. Studies show that men are the worst and on average cannot sit through dinner for 30 minutes without  text messaging. How sad is that? And naturally, wives and girlfriends complain that this behavior brings an element of "competition with work" into their homes even though their men have physically left the office for the day. Some wives have stated that seeing their husbands thumbing the tech makes them feel insecure and unimportant. One woman said: "Who can he possibly be texting that's more important than the pearls of wisdom dripping from my lips?" What indeed!

Ironically, the same studies reveal a reversed trend among teeny-boppers: young girls are the worst chronic offenders  in that age group. And now we have the iPhone and iPad...more toys for addicted youngsters (and not too few adults) to play with at the dinner table. Yay. All of this makes me really wonder what sort of table-manners these new generations will be bred on. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but when I was a kid, dinner time was for our family to come together and talk about school, work and the day's events. Now, husbands, wives and children sit around the dinner table and ignore eachother because they're too busy cyber-speaking with people who don't even live in the house. Could we be witnessing the future deconstruction of all that is proper etiquette?

I can think of only two circumstances where texting at dinner could be acceptable: If you're a fireman, policeman, doctor (or some other live-saving superhero) and get called to an emergency somewhere, then yeah, that's an urgent text message that needs addressing. But even then, it's polite to excuse yourself from the table first to handle it.

The other reason? If you're eating dinner alone. Of course then it's perfectly appropriate to text message since you have no one else to talk to. Interestingly enough...those who rudely text while eating with others eventually find themselves alone anyway.


  1. Love this, Corey!

    As the mother of a teenage daughter... you are 100% on target! We have a no-texting rule at the dinner table, and she still tries to sneak her phone. I think she thinks we are blind to the fact that she is not only ignoring us, but barely touches her food for minutes at a time. At which point, of course, it gets snagged.

    My husband and I, thank God, NEVER bring our phones to the table. For the most part, I have never had an issue with him being obsessed about it. On the other hand, I have many girlfriends who suffer from feeling the odd-man-out at the dinner table and at other places.

    Wonderfully written post.

    Enjoy the way in which you express yourself : )

  2. too funny! That has always been a pet peeve of mine. Hate it when someone does this. To me it implies that they are insecure and trying to make themselves feel important or indispensable.
    Enjoy your day!.

    Terry Samuels

  3. Texting while dining conveys such bad manners, and I could not agree more. I often see so many people at cafes texting below the table while sitting with a friend who often is just staring off into space (just like the photo you show). Maybe at some point there will be "no-texting" signs placed on the walls of certain in dining establishments. Thanks for the well written post! :)

  4. @ Gloria: It's good to hear that there are conscientious parents out there like yourself who are keeping this thing in check! Left alone, this could breed an entirely new generation of rude malcontents! LOL

  5. @ Terry: That is very true. Although there are some who are legitimately in demand. I don't think one needs to necessarily leave their phone in the car to avoid getting text messages; just excuse yourself to answer them!

  6. @ Joan: You may be onto something: I'm already seeing signs in banks (specifically for those in the waiting lines) to discontinue all texting and phone calls prior to approaching the service counter. And movie theaters will throw you out now for dealing with it during a feature. So maybe that law will become reality in restaurants too...

  7. Barbara Johnson/ The Walls Of VirtueApril 22, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    Corey oh my God! I just informed my teenage daughter and all of her text savy friends that my services of driving them across the metro Detroit area, will require that they place their cell phones in my glove compartment until vacating! This way they are forced to talk with me and each other!!

  8. @ Barbara: I love that resolution. Teach them up!

  9. I love this post...I sometimes wonder if teenagers, or adults for that matter, could possibly make it a day without texting. When young people are texting at the table when sitting across from each other, you know things have gotten completely out of control. So happy my daughter missed this craze during her teenage years...