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Guy hipster sits on toilet bowl with phone in handsYou’re probably a little less crude than I, but how many times have you said something like this under your breath: “hey lady, get off your f**king phone!”

Or is it just me–is it this election making me a nutcase? Will I calm down after Tuesday?  I think not.

If you have almost gotten mowed down by an oblivious midlife woman in her Lulus, walking to her health club from her Range Rover while checking her email, you know what I’m talking about.   If you have been at dinner with a friend while they check their texts, ruining the flow of your fascinating story about your best friend’s mother’s hernia operation, you know what I’m talking about. If you have been at the theatre, and the person in front of you actually starts texting during the performance, you know what I’m talking about. And if you have been kept waiting by someone who just needed to play that last move on Words With Friends, you were probably waiting for me…sorry about that.

I am as guilty as the next gal of being attached to my smartphone, but I don’t like what seems to happening around me: downright rudeness, a total lack of being in the moment, a complete disregard for any social graces. Isn’t it about time we establish some reasonable societal norms for smart phone use—not hard and fast rules like “no texting while driving” but rules that we can actually live with?

Here are a few suggestions, with an aplogee (not a typo-) and warning to my children that they may want to skip this piece (though this assumes that they sometimes read me…):

  1. Smartphones in bed. Our smart phones are our alarm clocks, so sure, it’s ok to take your smart phone to bed with you (you sexy thing you)–though if you are checking your emails at midnight and wondering why you aren’t sleeping well you may want to rethink this. But can we agree on this simple rule? No smart phones during sex! It shouldn’t be that hard a rule to live by, but apparently 20% of young people (ages 18-34) use their smart phones during sex. Really? Really! But like all rules, there can be exceptions to this prohibition if a. you do not have a bigger screen on which to watch porn together, or b. your smart phone has a vibrator app (and what an app that would be!!!! Why has no one thought of this yet?)
  2. Smartphones and driving: We all have our smart phones by our side in the car, whether or not we are driving, let’s not kid ourselves. We use Google Maps and Waze so we don’t get lost on the way to places we have been a million times before, or god forbid, sit in traffic. Obviously, smartphones for those uses have to be OK. But Google searches, texting, emailing while driving? We know we all do it occasionally, despite it being illegal in many states as well as ridiculously dangerous (though no one I know would admit it.) But can we all agree that even if we don’t do it, when we do, we should only text, check email and do Google searches on our phones at red lights and stop signs (and then only if we come to a full stop and there is not a line of cars behind you…)
  3. Smartphones and walking…ok fine- walk and text and chew gum all at the same time…but don’t do it in an urban area where you may bump into an unsuspecting pedestrian. And never in parking lots. And never anywhere where there are tree roots or boulders or uneven sidewalks. And not if it is the lighting is poor. And not if you are walking with your elderly mother.
  4. Smartphones and stairs. Are you climbing up? It’s pretty doable if you first check that you are on the correct side of the stairs and there is not one else around that you are holding up. Are you going down? NEVER!
  5. Smartphones at a meal. Bring your smart phone to dinner….of course! But follow these rules. Take out your smartphones only: a. if you are eating alone. b. if you are not eating alone but your friend goes to the bathroom and leaves you alone at the table (what are you supposed to do, sit there alone not doing anything like a loser?) c. if everyone around the table is on their smartphones because you don’t really like one another and you don’t want to be there d. if there is a burning question that everyone needs to know the answer to immediately, like “What ever happened to Pablo Escobar’s wife and children?” (They are not dead) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pablo_Escobar e. to pay your friend with Venmo at the end of the meal.
  6. Smartphones on the toilet. I can’t think of a reason why not, but no face time, and unless you are a 15 year old boy, you should not announce where you are. No speaker phones, duh. Mute when flushing please.
  7. Smartphones at the movies: We need our smart phones at the movies, duh, because there is down time before the previews start and you have nothing more to say to the person you came with, especially if you have already been to dinner. But shut them down as soon as the previews begin because some people (me) like the previews the best. Keep your phone away until the credits are almost over or your on the way out of the theatre (but see #3)
  8. Smartphones at a play. Same as above, but put them away when the lights go down. Resume when lights go up. And obviously, feel free to use during intermission, especially if you are at the end of the line at the ladies’ room.
  9. Smartphones while waiting at the bank. If you own a smart phone, why would you go into a bank?
  10. Smartphones at your teacher/parent conference. Never.
  11. Smartphones When your teenage kid is trying to talk to you. Never.
  12. Smartphones at the doctor’s office. Smartphones are a must in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. They are also a must in the second waiting room. Don’t forget your phone charger.
  13. Smartphones in the shower. I have no idea how people do this, but apparently it’s a thing. Go for it.

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An Official User’s Guide: When Not To Use Your Smart Phone was last modified: by