Author Topic: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?  (Read 3231 times)

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Ceallach

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Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« on: December 08, 2013, 05:37:15 AM »
I was in a situation last night where I was sorely tempted to play with my iphone at the table, due to a lack of conversation opportunities available to me.   I didn't want to appear rude, but I wasn't sure how long I could smile politely at the centrepiece!

The scene was DH's work Christmas party.  I had really psyched myself up for a big night of networking and making DH look good, something I find draining (I have high social anxiety) but am actually extremely good at when I put my mind to it (acting and sales skills put into practise!).    During the cocktail hour we mingled, socialised, all lovely.  Then we headed through to the formal sit down dinner.   Although it was very formal it was not assigned seating, and the table we ended up at included 1 single.    Meaning I had an empty seat next to me just due to where I chose to seat (normally I would have paid more attention but I was leaving it to DH to choose where we sat so didn't realise immediately that I'd sat next to a single empty chair!).    For quite a long time it wasn't really appropriate to mingle.  The whole room was seated during service, and with the exception of ducking out to the restroom nobody was standing.   It was formal enough that waiters were constantly come to refill glasses and take drink orders etc. (Open bar!  ;D)

Here was the setting:

1.  To my left was DH.   He was engaging in conversation with the single gentleman to his left.   He wasn't neglecting me, but I also encouraged him to socialise - it is a work event, after all!  Plus there is nothing worse than a couple at a social event ignoring everybody else to socialise only with each other the whole time, so of course spending the whole time talking with him wasn't an option.
2. To my right was an empty seat.  The next seat over was the girlfriend of another employee.  I attempted to make conversation with her at least twice but was rebuffed.  She was not interested.   She preferred to talk to her boyfriend to her right.   He was also talking occasionally to the man opposite him but I was just far enough away that I could barely hear and it was a very "in" type of conversation.
3. There was a conversation happening at the opposite side of the table, however I couldn't hear as it was a large round table so they were quite far away.   Trying to interject to participate would have been rude, I would have had to be very loud and interrupt!   

The good news is that awhile after entrée was finished the lady 2 seats to my right went to have a cigarette (her boyfriend went too), and when she came back was noticeably friendlier.  I actually wondered if he'd had a word to her about it!   So that was nice.  After the main course and formalities / speeches etc it was ok to mingle so DH and I visited some other tables and spent time with more people and had a lovely night.

But the question is, during the first hour or so would I have been rude to check my phone a few times?  I did check it once or twice quickly (planning on using the "making sure the babysitter hasn't called" excuse!)  and scrolled through my facebook.   But the last thing I wanted was to be seen antisocial.   Do you think that this type of situation is an exception to the rule?  Or should I just have sat there smiling and composing stories in my head?   
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Marbles

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2013, 05:42:40 AM »
This was a moment to compose stories.

123sandy

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2013, 05:45:44 AM »
Smile and compose stories. Using your phone would be rude.

Ceallach

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2013, 05:52:24 AM »
To be honest, even if you guys said "Yes! Go for it! Play Angry Bird!" there is no way I would - it does feel anti social to have a device on in those circumstances.

It was a really odd situation for me though, I was very happy whenever a new course of food or a new drink was delivered for something to "focus" on for a bit to look less aimless/ornamental.    :D     I did spend time thinking of how I would ask eHell what they thought!
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cicero

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2013, 05:55:39 AM »
yeah, what they said.


evil Cicero wonders what was in the ciggie...


The good news is that awhile after entrée was finished the lady 2 seats to my right went to have a cigarette (her boyfriend went too), and when she came back was noticeably friendlier.  I actually wondered if he'd had a word to her about it!   

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CakeEater

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2013, 06:10:05 AM »
I hate being in that situation, and it would be extremely tempting, but no, not OK.

Nothing worse than sitting there with nothing to do, attempting to look pleasant.

Redsoil

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2013, 06:24:01 AM »
I'd say you reacted in the only polite fashion you could under the circumstances!  Must have felt very awkward though, and quite isolating.  Well done!  :)
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Ceallach

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2013, 06:28:24 AM »
I'd say you reacted in the only polite fashion you could under the circumstances!  Must have felt very awkward though, and quite isolating.  Well done!  :)

Thanks!  The good news is I know the people he works with now, so next year I will be a bit assertive about which table we go to and hopefully manoeuvre so we sit with the people we socialised with later in the night who I found very pleasant   (I'm good at that whole strategizing at these events - seeing when the waiters are about to announce that it's time to move through, and eyeing up the table of choice etc!)   
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barefoot_girl

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2013, 07:53:10 AM »
Using phones at the dinner table is never OK. Using them at your DH's work do = never OK x 23233000. That said, I think your DH and his colleagues were rude to ignore you in the way they did. If you are at a formal dinner, and one person is looking a bit 'alone', you make conversation with that person. Them's the rules.

Ceallach

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2013, 07:59:34 AM »
Using phones at the dinner table is never OK. Using them at your DH's work do = never OK x 23233000. That said, I think your DH and his colleagues were rude to ignore you in the way they did. If you are at a formal dinner, and one person is looking a bit 'alone', you make conversation with that person. Them's the rules.

I agree, but during the times where getting up is a bit of a "no no" (in between speeches, and other formal sit down times) it's a bit hard for other people to go out of their way to make conversation - I was on a bit of a physical island from the rest of my table!   Normally it would be ok as there would be somebody each side, but the having 1 empty side made it awkward for them as well as for me.

To be clear, my husband did make a point of being attentive to me but without being rude to the man on the other side, who was also in an awkward position being a single therefore reliant on the men on either side - both there with spouses - to talk to.  And to me it was more important for my husband to converse with his colleague than with me, so when he leaned over and said  "I'm so sorry darling I've put you in an awkward position" I said "No it's ok I'm having a lovely time!  And tell me more about XYZ that Mr Smith does?"   :)
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Piratelvr1121

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2013, 08:14:40 AM »
I'd say it would be okay if engaged in a conversation where something comes up (a fact, actor/movie name, someone wants directions) and you have a smart phone on which you can look it up on.  But only if the phone is put away upon finding the information you were looking for.
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camlan

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #11 on: December 08, 2013, 08:56:55 AM »
This is why there used to be rules at formal dinner parties about who to talk to and when. While we don't need to be so strict today, there is still a social requirement not to ignore the people sitting near you at a dinner party. Also, one of the reasons hosts used to prepare seating charts was to put compatible guests together--someone who liked to talk next to someone who was content to listen, two avid golfers next to each other, separating the Red Sox fan from the Yankees fan if they were known to get argumentative. Although these rules seem very strict and fussy today, they were designed to help prevent some of what happened to the OP.

So, the girlfriend who ignored your attempts at conversation was rude.

Now, you could have spoken with your husband and the man on his other side. Just because this was a chance for your husband to network doesn't mean that the three of you couldn't have a conversation, perhaps even about something not work related. Or your husband could have stopped speaking with the man next to you occasionally to chat with you for a bit.

But using your phone was also rude. In the past, before smart phones, this situation happened to many people. There's really nothing to do but paste a pleasant expression on your face and pretend to be enjoying yourself.

It also sounds as if there was time before dinner for mingling and also time after dinner. I think it is acceptable for a couple to speak to each other during dinner in a situation like this. Not every single second needs to be spent networking. While these types of parties can be used for networking and the like, because spouses/SOs are invited, there is the expectation that the employee will spend some time with their guest. It would not have been inappropriate for your husband to have spent approximately half the dinner time speaking with you, or for him to have included you in the conversation with the other man.
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*inviteseller

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #12 on: December 08, 2013, 09:12:53 AM »
I find that any electronic devices at any meal, be it formal or friends at a fast food place are rude, but maybe that's just me.  I know it must have been excruciatingly boring, but your dinner companions (and your DH) IMO were rude to ignore you and just socialize with each other, but to bring out your phone would have added to it. 

TootsNYC

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2013, 09:27:43 AM »
Given that you had no one sitting on your other side, your DH should have been trying to involve you in his conversation with the guy on the other side. Not that easy when you have to talk across him (and if the table was a -big-  round table, it's even harder, bcs the curve of the table is very oblique, nearly as bad as if you're at a straight table--but of course, bcs it's round, you can't talk with the people directly on the other side--it's too far).

I've decided one of the worst things to happen to people's socializing skills is the big round table that seats 10 to 12. You really have only 2 people to talk with.

Also, since you were sitting by your DH, he was more comfortable ignoring you--or, as w/ the gir on the other side, they only want to talk with their mate. When couples have to split up and sit elsewhere, then I think people feel more pressure to make conversation with the people on both sides.

VorFemme

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Re: Using phones at the dinner table - is it ever ok?
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2013, 12:24:19 PM »
If you have a cell phone because you are "on call" - and you get a phone call about an emergency - you're fine.  If you're bored - make up stories to tell yourself...

Or try to decide if you'd like to redecorate your home using ideas from the venue.  Do you LIKE the china, glassware, tableware, or the wallpaper?  Can you rule out red carpet on your floor, ever? 

I can guarantee you that WHITE carpet is a very, very bad idea in a dining room - we rented a house with white carpet and it didn't come clean even after six or eight passes with a steam cleaner - there had always been a china cabinet or buffet along one wall and you could see the original color compared to the rest of the floor.  But I did like using sections of brass chain as drapery tie backs - coordinated with the brass chandelier nicely.
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