Text Messaging Anarchy

I love the question, “What are the manners for text messaging?” because it gives me a chance to talk about how manners evolve. We don’t just make them up here at The Emily Post Institute. What we do is consider the medium, think about what’s respectful and considerate, listen to the public, and then articulate the manners we see evolving. So when I was asked recently by Sara Rimer of The New York Times, “What about text messaging at the dinner table?” it was an easy answer – “It’s not good manners!”

If your meal is just about nourishment and you are by yourself in the kitchen, text away. No problem! But if you’re having dinner with friends and family, be with them. As I told Sara, “The family meal is a social event, not a food ingestion event.” Even if your phone is in your lap, the people with you all know what you’re doing when you’re eyes are focused on your lap. Just because it’s a quiet activity (unlike a phone call), you’re not fooling anyone. And then everyone’s attention is on the fact that your attention is on your phone, not on them.

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.

If you haven’t clicked through yet, check out Sara Rimer’s article in The New York Times. It’s a great piece on how different people feel about texting at the dinner table, plus there is a lively discussion happening in the comments section.

11 comments to Text Messaging Anarchy

  • My kids don’t have cell phones yet, but this will definetely be a rule when they do. I hate it when somebody I’m trying to spend time with is texting.
    Thanks for the comment on my blog and I love this site. I’ll be back for inspiration.

  • Marie

    Yes, texting at the table is rude, but I also know many young people who text while driving.Telling them it is dangerous receives the usual “oh but I’m careful”. Aside from not riding with them is there any recourse?

  • Cindy Post Senning

    The post from June 24th is all about good manners and safety being one and the same. “One of my favorite things about good manners is that they often lead to safe practice. The converse is also true. Safe practice is actually good etiquette because it shows respect and consideration for others.” While that post talked about biking, it is also true for driving. Maybe an approach to the young drivers is that not only is texting while driving not safe, it is disrespectful. Their choice to text – even carefully – puts others at risk and so shows a lack of respect. Young people like to be seen as respectful so perhaps they would respond to the “it’s not respectful” approach about texting and driving.
    As I was writing this one of my colleagues at the Emily Post Institute mentioned to me that he read an article on this topic. It was about a study that driving and texting is more dangerous than driving and drinking. So… no matter what you try to discourage texting and driving, I would tell you that it is completely within the bounds of good etiquette to refuse to ride with them and I would encourage that.

  • Dewey Watson

    Thank you Cindy
    I am a youth minister in Texas and texting bothers me most during church services. Sitting on the platform, I see teenagers texting their friends in and out of church. Once I was told by one of my parishioners that the girl sitting in front of them kept saying to someone in cyberspace that she was at church and very bored. That sends a bad message for the church. Sometimes I think cell phones should be checked at the door.

  • Stephen Hinkle

    I think that text messaging is acceptable to use. However, I think there are some places and environments where it is not appropriate. For example, movie theaters, performing arts theaters, the dinner table, in airplanes (against the FAA to use), during a job interview, and some other quiet places and dark places. Not only does it distract people around you that you may be with, the back light lamps of cell phones, laptops, and PDAs can be bright.

  • Excellent Web site! I was wondering if I could site some of your website and use a handful of things for a school assignment. Please email me whether or not that would be fine. Thanks

  • Cindy Post Senning

    Hello resume for cashier,

    I was just checking my older posts and comments and find I did not post a reply. My apologies. I am happy for you to site my site and to use a handful of things as long as you properly mention where you got them. As with any content it is important to give credit. Simply mention The Gift of Good Manners site, Cindy Post Senning, and The Emily Post Institute. This may be too late for you but if it’s not, good luck with your school assignment.


  • Nice to be visiting your blog again, it has been months for me. Well this article that i’ve been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.

  • Leslie Fine

    I find it disrespectful when I am driving someone to their destination and they take a phone call for the length of the ride (1-1/2 hours). Or driving someone to their destination and they constantly text during the length of the drive and continue in the doctor’s office and hospital…I am doing them a “favor” show me some respect, I am NOT your personal driver.

  • Good blog! I truly love how it is easy on my eyes and the data are well written. I’m wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I’ve subscribed to your RSS which must do the trick! Have a nice day!

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