Cell phone etiquette: A how-to guide


Have you ever looked at your cell phone while in the company of someone else? If so, you’re guilty of a phenomenon called phubbing. Phubbing, or phone snubbing, is a newly coined term that refers to the act of ignoring someone in a social setting by looking at your phone or other mobile device.

People phub all the time. But that doesn’t mean it’s socially accepted. Sending a text, taking a non-emergency call, or posting something on social media when you’re with someone else is just plain rude. And no one likes to be ignored. Do it too often, and people may stop including you in their plans.

Here are some ways to avoid phubbing and make sure you’re valuing live interactions above phone speak:

  • Silence your phone in social settings. When you’re with friends, keep your phone silenced and pay attention to the people you’re with. If you’re worried about emergency messages, put your phone on vibrate and only give it a glance before returning to your in-person conversation.
  • Wait until you’re alone to check your phone. When you constantly check your phone in the presence of someone else, what you’re actually saying is: “I’m looking for a distraction from you. I find your company boring.” Think about the non-verbal signals you’re sending and wait until you’re alone to check messages.  
  • Don’t make plans if you must be on the phone. If you’re expecting a call that you’ll have to take, schedule your social plans for a different day or time, when you can give your undivided attention to your companion.
  • If you absolutely must take a call… Simply say to your companion, “Excuse me. This will only take a few seconds.” Then deal with the call or text as quickly as possible, promising to get back to the caller later.
  • Put your phone away at the table. Even the mere presence of a phone at the table can negatively impact social interactions. You’ll also digest your food better if you have no digital interruptions. And, of course, nothing destroys a good conversation and feelings of camaraderie faster than texting or talking to a third party.
  • Never use a phone in certain settings. Even if you’re unaccompanied, don’t even think about using your phone if you’re at a wedding, a funeral, the symphony, a movie theater, or a concert. Also, stay off the phone if you’re in a checkout line or are ordering food in a restaurant. Always give cashiers and servers your full attention. 

3 ways to handle phubbing friends

Feeling slighted by friends who can’t put their phones down? Try these tips:

  1. Next time you make plans with a phubber, ask her to leave her phone at home. If she says she can’t, take a rain check instead.
  2. Next time you plan a social event, don’t invite phubbers. If they ask why they weren’t included, be honest: You’re tired of being ignored.
  3. Next time you get phubbed, walk away. If the phubber wonders why you left, it’s your chance to give a little tough love.