4 Tips for Cell Phone Use When You're With Friends and Family
Because facetime > FaceTime.
I spend a lot of time on my phone. Wake up, scroll. Brush my teeth, scroll. Stoplight, scroll. It's easy to blame my constant phone use on work (Instagram is a helpful way to discover new-to-me brands, fascinating people, and "only in the South" stories); but that's not totally fair. Part of it is just the tight tether I keep on my glass-screened companion: Ever present and ever distracting. But even I love leaving my phone behind from time to time, especially when I'm with all my favorite people. Here are four easy ways to minimize screen time when you're with friends and family.
Stow it away.
The "out of sight, out of mind" mentality works especially well with cell phones. Take away the temptation of a mindless scroll by making it more difficult to check your phone in the first place. If you're out to lunch with a friend, zip it up in your purse and put it under the table. "But I use my phone as my watch," you insist. Easy fix: Set an alarm for the time you need to leave (just make sure it's a relatively quiet, inoffensive one), then tuck it away. This way, you can enjoy your conversation without checking your phone every few minutes to make sure you're not running late for your next commitment.
Establish no-phone zones.
The trick to getting everyone onboard with a no-phone zone is to be upfront about when and where phone use is inappropriate. For some families, there might be a "no phones at the table" rule; others may not care so much about the dinner table, but they'll throw a fit if they catch you scrolling Facebook during charades. But no-phone zones only work if everyone is playing by the rules—you too, Memaw.
Put your phone's "Do Not Disturb" settings to the test.
Both iPhones and Androids offer customizable settings that allow you to virtually turn your phone off, without ever pressing the power button. The beauty of "Do Not Disturb" is that you can tailor the settings to your needs: Create a specific contact list so that you can avoid calls from the neighborhood gossip, but never miss a ring from Mama. If the option is selected, "Do Not Disturb" also allows for repeat calls (back-to-back calls in a certain amount of time, as would be likely in an urgent or emergent situation) to supersede these settings. It's easier to ignore your phone when it's not constantly lighting up or buzzing with notifications.
Take advantage of downtime.
We certainly don't begrudge anyone the occasional cell phone check, as long as it doesn't detract from conversation or quality time with your people. If everyone's taking a snooze, sneak a peek at Instagram then. If everyone's reading, and you forgot your book, well that's a fine time to check your phone, too. Just make sure the volume is turned off, or you're using headphones.
And a final word of advice: If someone is glued to his phone and you want to encourage him to unplug for a bit, do it kindly and without judgement. Nobody likes a technology tyrant.
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