Today, It's Good Manners Being Killed By Texting

from the what-next? dept

Some grumpy old editor at the New York Times must really be upset about all these damn kids and their cell phones. First, earlier in the week, it ran a story in its health section talking about how texting is destroying teenagers' thumbs and ruining their minds; now, it's got a piece on how texting at the dinner table is the latest epidemic of bad manners. There's the obligatory quote from a mental-health professional, as a therapist weighs in to say that texting while eating has become "a major issue" among couples in counseling. It also has etiquette writers keen to push their latest book by touting the need for proper gadget etiquette, as if being rude or inconsiderate has somehow changed since we got cell phones. It seems like for years, people have been saying how American families never eat dinner together anymore, but apparently that problem's been solved. Now if it weren't for those damn texts...

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    CleverName, May 28th, 2009 @ 6:01pm


    Who cares whether other families eat at the table together, it really is not your concern. One would hope that texting while eating is no big deal in families other than your own because it is not your concern either.

    Sounds like miss busybody has her panties in a twist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Hoplite, May 28th, 2009 @ 6:29pm

    I'm sorry, did I miss something?

    I was texting while reading your article, you don't mind right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2009 @ 6:40pm

    Manners died years ago, 90% of the population doesn't know the most basic things like which fork to use when, that guys remove their hats before they enter a building, tip their hats when they greet a woman, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    kpsnyder, May 28th, 2009 @ 6:57pm

    Let me preface this by saying...

    ...that few people I know are as connected as I. My iPhone is always on, and I check and reply to messages around the clock.

    However, I have to agree with this article in principle, in that there are just some times that should be a phone call / email / texting free zone. Those times include family dinners and spending a few hours a night with ones family, along with any time you're having a conversation with another person. Sometimes it's ok to be disconnected, or to focus on things in the physical world; life as you know it won't end.

    I think it's great we're all as connected as we are, but I think we all need to take one baby step back and realize that proper social etiquette still applies when using our gadgets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Joe, May 28th, 2009 @ 7:05pm


    Didn't it used to be reading the newspaper at the table was bad etiquette? Maybe there's just happy they can blame someone else now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Joe, May 28th, 2009 @ 7:08pm

    Doesn't bother me at all.

    If you are texting at the dinner table, I will not say a word. You might even see me do that too from time to time. The only thing I don't like is when they don't pay attention to what you are saying because their busy texting. That's the only thing that bothers me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 28th, 2009 @ 7:25pm

    friends who text the whole time ur on vacation with them or when u drive them places and they text or talk on the phone instead of showing any appreciation of you helping out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Michael Long, May 28th, 2009 @ 7:26pm


    I was at lunch yesterday and watched a family gathering to celebreate their daughter's 16th birthday. Parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends; all brought gifts and all made an appearance to celebrate this special day and what did the girl do?

    Spent the ENTIRE occasion texting, eyes and hands busy beneath the table. No conversation with anyone actually present. No partipation. Nothing. Oh, I forgot. She did come up for air long JUST enough to tear open her presents... and then returned to texting.

    Apparently one set of grandparents flew in just for the party. Only to be ignored.

    Next year, they'd do better to forget the party, forget the gifts, and just send the ungrateful child a text. "HPY BD LYLB"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Bettawrekonize, May 28th, 2009 @ 7:45pm

    Re: etiquette

    "Didn't it used to be reading the newspaper at the table was bad etiquette?"

    Perhaps T.V stations made this up because the newspaper was competing with television news programs. In response, newspapers blamed T.V for causing bad manners. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Hulser (profile), May 28th, 2009 @ 7:46pm

    Re: Lame

    Who cares whether other families eat at the table together, it really is not your concern.

    You make it sound like it's wrong to comment on anything unless is has a direct effect on you. This is absurd in this case and it's absurd when people use the same lame logic to fault Techdirt for suggesting ways that the music or movie industry can improve their business models because Techdirt isn't in those businesses.

    As for the actual topic of texting while at the dinner, what's wrong with commenting on this? Is it any more rude if someone is reading a comic book or playing a handheld game? No, but it's the same principle applied to modern technology.

    If it was wrong or uninteresting to read about the same themes in the context of new situations made possible by technology, then no one would read Techdirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Sean, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:04am

    I am disappointed that TechDirt failed to mention the piece was ran in the Dining section.

    An article about an explosive new medium in technology invading our lives to the point of interfering with dinner/family time, was written about in the New York Times, in their Dining section.

    An article in the Dining section about kids texting at the dinner table seems pretty god damn impressive as a piece about technology and its implications in everyday life.

    I don't know how to make it more clear it was in their one section dedicated to food - but I guess at least someone should if the article's author won't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Cap'n Jack (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 3:20am

    Yeah, um, this is nothing new. We had a strict "no answering the phone during dinner" rule when I was growing up. Plenty of families watch TV, or answer the phone, or something else during dinner. If these parents are having problems, it's because they have no authority in their own households.

    Not textings fault. Raise your children better, please.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    CleverName, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    Re: Re: Lame

    Business is typically performed in public. Commenting upon such activity is very common, in fact it can be business. However, table manners in the homes of others is different.
    I'm suprised you tried to compare the two.

    What does Miss Manners @ NYT suggest be done in order to stem this most egregious breach of table manners?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Hulser (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Lame

    What does Miss Manners @ NYT suggest be done in order to stem this most egregious breach of table manners?

    OK, so you first say that commenting on table manners in public is uncommon and then immediately reference Miss Manners, one of the most well-known examples of how table manners are discussed in public. Do you even read your comments before posting them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    hegemon13, May 29th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    It's not the technology

    The technology itself is not the problem, but rather the culture of self-centeredness that we have evolved into. I noticed this last night when I went out to eat. A family of four walked into the restaurant together. Nice, a family night out together...except that the mom and both daughters had their noses buried in their cell phones will the dad stood looking at the wall. It was quite sad to see. What should be done? Well, I really don't think there is anything that can be done, or should be. There is, however, a definite shift in social behavior, where things that would once be considered outrageously rude are commonplace. The fact that an individual feels they have the right to loudly carry on a phone conversation in a movie theater (which happens in at least half the movies I go to now) is a good example. I don't know whether people are any more selfish or not. The technology certainly does not cause it, even if they are, but it certainly accentuates the bad behavior and enables it in more locations. I'm not for getting rid of any of the technologies. As with guns, it is the user, not the technology, that is the problem. I just think it is sad that society has reached this point, where vital physical interaction is so often compromised, even within families and friends.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    hegemon13, May 29th, 2009 @ 7:48am


    Those are more of a temporary social etiquette or tradition than manners. They are superficial. It does not affect anyone else if I use the wrong fork or wear a hat (though I hate wearing hats, and I know which fork to use). Etiquette changes with time, and that is fine.

    What is not okay, however, is the kind of shift we have seen in the basic principles of social interaction. When a person is cut off in conversation so that the other guy can read or send a text message, that is downright rude no matter what era you live in. When a person spends more time in front of the TV than with their kids, it is a critical social breakdown. When a person starts up a loud phone conversation in an area reserved for others to focus, such as a theater or library, that is a complete lack of manners.

    Etiquettes change, fine. But the complete bankruptcy of social concern and principle manners is more recent, and more alarming. I don't know what the cause is, except to say that I think our society is far too focused on celebrating the individual and has become an incubator for hubris and selfishness.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    zellamayzao, May 29th, 2009 @ 8:28am


    @ Cap'n Jack

    My parents were the same when when my brother and I lived at home. No tv, no answering the phone (landline or cell). No hats at the table and no texting when we finally got that feature. Its not the cell phones fault the kids these days have no manners. The parents need to man up (not being sexist or gender biased just to cover myself) and tell the kids to put the phone down for 45 minutes and have a dinner.

    And if thats not the type of family you have then don't worry about this article because it doesn't apply to you and your family

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Silver Fang (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Old as the hills

    Ranting and raving over new technology and trends is nothing new. In the early 1900s, phonographs and movies were the target, in the 40s, it was comic books, since the 50s TV has been a favorite target and since the 1990s, the Internet and so on.

    Every 20 or so years, a new technology will be embrace by young people and eschewed and reviled by their elders. Even Plato ranted and raved about corrupt youth in ancient Athens.

    It's as old as the hills!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Amy Hass, May 29th, 2009 @ 11:36am


    *shakes head* Yeah, the world is coming to an end because of texting...hardly!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    ellen, May 29th, 2009 @ 2:20pm

    I had a cellphone, a pager, and a music player by the time I was 12 years old. I also had a Cuban father with a belt, and he knew how to use it. Even now, my siblings and I don't yak on cellphones or send text messages in restaurants or at dinner tables. It all starts with the parents and what they teach their children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Tom, May 29th, 2009 @ 4:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Lame

    Yes, I think Hustler is correct in this case.
    You would not believe the outrageous things that go on within the homes of neighbors. Just take a peek and you will be amazed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2009 @ 7:40am

    CCTV cameras should be installed in every dining area to ensure that these atrocities do not continue. Think of the children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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