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20-40-60 etiquette: Time for new friends?

Friends constantly check emails, texts and the time when we are out to dinner. Is this the new normal? 20-40-60 answers, with Mary McReynolds as guest.

by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman Published: October 28, 2012

QUESTION: Are watches obsolete? I was recently at a dinner with several people. Two of the women kept looking at their cellphones (to check the time, they said), but I felt like they were taking a quick look at their text messages. It was annoying and distracting. Am I wrong to think cellphones should be put away during a lovely dinner and if you need to check the time, look at your watch.

CALLIE’S ANSWER: Today people do business through email and checking their phone is part of their job. No one is trying to be rude. Sorry. It is now part of our culture and immediate response is sometimes needed or required.

LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: People are more distracted these days, and yes, cellphones have replaced watches as a timekeeper for many people — after all, they reset themselves and are accurate. And yes, people may miss out on a meaningful time with friends by being in constant communication with the world beyond their immediate one, thanks to cellphones.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to live like that or stay upset with those who do.

Keep in mind that sometimes the cellphone is the tool that allows people to get away from work or their families long enough to steal dinner with friends. By staying in touch with people who are counting on them, your friends might get some time with you that they wouldn’t normally have. Parents often need to be available to children at home or with a sitter. Others have something going on at work that needs attention. It would be nice if people who fall in a group like this explained why their phones were out so you would understand or if they involved you in their social media conversations somehow.

It is a bit jarring to have dinner with someone who checks messages more than a few times, and that behavior can make a person feel like they are unimportant when they sit there silently while another friend returns lengthy texts. We all need to remember the importance of staying present and attentive to the friends who are sitting at the same table with us, even though there is a lot competing for our attention.

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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