21st Century Etiquette

Ken AshfordSex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

The New York Times examines the (im)propriety of texting at the dinner table.  Making a phone call at the table is an obvious faux pas, but what about the less intrusive texting? 

As you might expect, working husbands and teenage daughters don't see it as a problem.  But there are exceptions:

Brigid Wright, 17, from Needham, Mass., said that like many teenagers, she has honed the skill of eating with one hand and texting with the other. But, she said (and her family confirms), she does not text at the table at home.

“No teenager wants to look up from a glowing cellphone screen to see a disappointed parent frowning across the table,” she wrote in an e-mail message.

Ms. Boyd is 31. Sometimes she looks up from her glowing iPhone screen to see her husband, Gilad Lotan, a Microsoft designer, frowning at her across the table.

“If I’m sitting there privately responding to messages, Gilad might say, ‘Hey, I thought we were at dinner,’ ” she said. “I’ll be, like, ‘Hmm, sorry, just doing this quickly.’ ”

They both bring their iPhones to the table, she said, using them as conversational tools. If they’re debating a question, for instance, they might use their phones to look up the answer.

They try to avoid texting, she said, “if it’s a dinner where we’re trying to be engaged.” (As opposed to a dinner “where we both need food in our systems so we can both get back to work.”).

There is no texting or e-mailing at the dinner table in Lydia Shire’s home, in Weston, Mass. “My son would never dream of texting at the table,” said Ms. Shire, a chef and restaurant owner in Boston. “And he wouldn’t do it at anyone else’s table, either.”

As for me, I'm amazed that families still sit down to dinner together.