QUESTION: Is it OK to make a no cellphone/game/gadget rule during lunch? How do you go about implementing it?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: If we are talking about your children and specific events, I think it is a great idea! However, I used to have my BlackBerry attached to my hand at all times for my previous job. Yes, there is a time and a place to be answering text messages and emails for work, and I understand that it seems rude. I also think we need to be patient with each other. As for playing a game or reading a book, it is not the right time at lunch or dinner.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: That's tough to impose on other people, but it's a problem everywhere. I try to teach my kids that the most important people are those they are with, and that spending time with whoever it is should be a priority. They will call me out if I violate that philosophy.
On the other hand, Bob Goff, author of “Love Does,” has said he answers his phone anytime it rings and asks people if he can call them back if he's in the middle of something. He tries to be present with people, whatever that looks like, and that's an interesting, alternative perspective, and it works for him in unusual ways.
But back to your question. I sometimes keep my phone with me in case my kids call. I usually explain why I have my phone out and don't answer it unless the caller is a sitter or one of the kids themselves.
There is a time and place for interruptions, but I think the best we can do is be mindful of the people with whom we have chosen to spend time. If you can encourage people to put their phones away lightheartedly, it will probably be taken better than if you lecture.
HELEN'S ANSWER: I have been to lunch with people who put their phones next to their knife and fork so they don't miss a call or text. It is easy to tell children to put their phones away, but adults, who should know better, are harder. Maybe you could suggest that since you only have 30 minutes for lunch that both of you turn off your phones so you can talk. You might also select a loud environment for lunch so it is hard to talk on the phone. If texting is a problem during lunch and your friend is consumed by it, maybe you can reschedule for another time. Text her/him that news.
People who are lunching together should be aware of other people's feelings. Good manners are still important, and trying to carry on two conversations, via phone and in person, is not appropriate.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Christina Nirhira, journalist and community volunteer: Unfortunately, the world has changed, and technology rules. You will be hard-pressed these days to find someone who isn't bent down, typing away on these devices.
I find it a bit maddening. I miss my friends and a good old-fashioned conversation without all the interruption. Conversations seem distracted, eyes are unfocused and hands always on the move. Yet there are exceptions, like my husband, who is a physician, and people do have work issues because of our “have to have it now” mentality.
To implement a rule, be vocal. State upfront the desire to take a 60-minute technology break. It might be refreshing for all. The issue can be incorporated with children too. We have a set rule for our three kids. When we dine out with an adult couple or another family, they must practice their best manners and engage in conversation until after they've eaten their meal. Only then, can they play on their electronics. Happy chatting!
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.