Geek Etiquette: Phone Use at Dinner

The Geeky Hostess is gonna help you get your manners on! Each Monday, we’ll focus on a topic of etiquette. We’ll take a look at the classic rules (using Emily Post as a guide), and then evaluate the rules for our daily lives, creating a guide to “Geek Etiquette.” Have an etiquette question or topic suggestion? Email!

Search for “Phone Etiquette” on the Emily Post website, and you’ll find 50 results. Phones have helped us communicate more quickly with some, but completely ignore those we’re currently with. I’ve been at meals where I felt uncomfortable for being the only one NOT on my phone. So what does the source say on phone etiquette while out with others?

If your cell phone rings and you’re in a restaurant…
Excuse yourself from the table and take the call in another room, such as an anteroom, restroom or lobby. Never disturb your own table and other diners by making or taking a call while sitting at the table. (Some ‘cell-phone free’ restaurants now actually require diners to check their phones at the door.)

But what about texting, emailing, checking the internet, or playing the next round of Words with Friends?

The guideline is that you do not text message when you are involved in any type of social interaction – conversation, listening, in class, at a meeting or, especially, at the dinner table. If you really need to communicate with someone who is not at the event – or at the table – excuse yourself and then return as soon as you can.

On our honeymoon, Mr. Geek and I made a conscious decision to leave the phones behind. The first couple meals were difficult. What do we talk about? How do we check IMDB if we don’t remember that movie’s name? By the end of the trip, I dreaded returning to my phone. Our conversations became rich. We looked each other in the eyes. We enjoyed our food. I encourage you all to try to have a meal without phones in the next couple days. It might be tough, but I promise it’s ultimately worth it.

Don’t think you’d be able to resist temptation? Use a phonekerchief (pictured above) to publicly show your guests you’re committed to a phone-less meal. Bonus: the phonekerchief is partially made up of silver fibers that form a Faraday cage around your phone, preventing phone signals from getting through. You won’t even know if you’re receiving calls/texts until you take your phone back out. For a less showy/expensive option, just turn your phone off for the duration of the meal.

Will you be able to take the phone-less challenge? Do you already have rules in place with your family/friends? Let us know what’s worked for you!

(Find more on Emily Post’s phone etiquette here and here.)


  1. I have to admit, I kind of love this idea:

    Basically if you’re out to a meal with friends, everyone puts their phones in the middle of the table but leaves them on silent.

    The first person to pick their phone up, buys for everyone.

  2. I LOVE that! I’ll have to try it with my friends.

  3. This is a great article, thanks for writing it Tara! I think that I might use it as ammo for some iPhone-interventions in the near future.

    My partner and I constantly have to remind each other to not be on our phones when we’re at dinner together. I think it’s certainly important to make the effort and even more so to acknowledge that it’s an issue that can be worked on.


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