Mind Those Mobile Manners

If new data is to be believed, Americans may be back to taking dinner time extremely seriously. According to the latest Harris Poll, the majority of Americans are sitting down to a “family” meal at least once a week.

Where they sit down to have that meal varies, as does what they eat when they do. But there’s one guest who’s no longer welcome at the dinner table: the mobile phone.

When it comes to chowing down, there is much diversity of opinion about where to eat (mostly the dining room table) and who makes a point of having a family meal (married couples, naturally). But two things are basically universal.

1. Americans are pro-family/group dinner; 93 percent of those polled noted such meals were something that they looked forward to.

2. Mobile phones aren’t invited. A little less than half of all Americans say it’s OK to watch TV while they eat, but 90 percent of Americans have a strict no-fly rule when it comes to accessing smartphones at the table.

Seems straightforward enough. Add “no phones at the table” to the list of things one shouldn’t do while eating. Emily Post would be proud.

Well, kind of. But, also, kind of not.


Being Fully Present - The Right Thing To Do (For Other People)

When Pew explored the subject of mobile etiquette and how consumers tend to think about it, they got a similar result to the team that put together this recent Harris Poll. Americans really, really don’t like mobile technology at the table. Pew’s findings were slightly different though. By their count, only 88 percent of Americans react with rage when people start updating their Facebook page during the amuse-bouche.

The Pew survey group seemed fairly tolerant of various mobile behaviors. Around three-quarters of those surveyed believe it is acceptable to use a mobile phone while walking down the street, riding public transportation or waiting in line. Things were a bit more evenly divided when it came to eating out a restaurant, but a solid majority (62 percent) placed it firmly in the “no, it’s cool” category.

But once it came to family dinner, the tide turned rapidly, as there are only three other places people on average think it is more inappropriate to use a phone.

The winner was church or any other house of worship. Whatever else our differences may be when it comes to faith in this country, there seems to be a near universal agreement that when one is in the presence of the higher power that they worship, it might not be the best time to check what’s recommended on Amazon.

This was not surprising.

Nor was the reveal that 95 percent of people think using a phone during a movie in a theater is a big don’t. Anyone who has ever sat next to someone who decided they wanted to live tweet all two hours of the film can attest to just how rage-inducing that experience can be.


The third most inappropriate place to use a smartphone, however, was in a business meeting. This struck us as surprising. Yes, at 94 percent, more Americans on average think it is worse to use a phone while one is in a meeting than while eating dinner with their grandmother.

And that was surprising because — well, to put it bluntly — we’ve been in our fair share of meetings over the years. During that time we’ve seen high scores at Candy Crush defeated, entire Christmas lists knocked off on Amazon, epic works of fan fiction being composed and full-scale Twitter wars.

Not at PYMNTS of course. Rapt attention at all meetings. But at the other places various members of our team have worked.

When taking a look at the broader sets of data on this, it becomes pretty clear mobile and etiquette are two concepts that don’t quite go together. As it turns out, how we want other people to use their smartphones in order to be polite does not necessarily match up with how we ourselves want to use our cellphones, while still having others consider us polite.

Or, put more simply, when it comes to mobile manners, it seems in many cases most of us would like others to do what we say, not what we actually do.

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Though the previous answers might indicate that people don’t think phones should be used during social interactions, only 25 percent were of the opinion that when they use their cellphone in public it has a tendency to take away from their real life interactions. That is interesting and made even more so when taken with the data that 89 percent of respondents admitted to using their phone during the last social gathering they went to.

If some of those were family dinners, this implies some of them were not living up to their own ideals.

And though 89 percent feels like a pretty high number it’s far from a surprise, given the same study indicates that 31 percent of Americans never turn their phone off, 45 almost never turn it off and 90 percent claim to have it on them the “majority of the time.”

Those are, no doubt, the users who are whipping out their cellphones and largely using them as tools to enhance the activity (photo taking and posting, etc.) which is the vast majority in fact.

But over a quarter of users are using their phones for explicitly anti-social purposes.

Among older users, the tendency was to think that mobile phones were a nuisance and an annoyance to human interaction. Younger users were far more likely to see it as an enhancement tool.

But two things at least seem clear:

1. Young or old, we are all much more likely to judge someone else’s mobile manners than we are likely to admit.

2. Don’t bring your phone to dinner with grandma. She won’t like it.



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