E-Rudeness

8 Nov

Letterbalm Woman with CellphoneDear LetterBalm: I have a friend who treats her cellphone and tablet like extensions of her body. She’s tapping on those things so much, I’m about to lose it. When we’re out together, she’s got to pick up her device constantly to look up some detail about what one of us just said or to verify a question that came up in conversation. She goes off into her search and pays half attention to the conversation and sometimes reads out what she’s finding online. Or, she gets a call and launches into a chat. I don’t want a messy confrontation – she’s the kind of person who gets defensive at the drop of a hat – but what can I say to her to let her know I don’t like what she’s doing and will leave if she continues?

–No Excuse for Bad Manners

Having the power to find immediate answers means that the person with the fastest fingers on the tablet or smartphone – in this case, your friend – gets to subtly crow about their knowledge. This is infuriating as well as discourteous. Ms. L.B. bows to the empress of propriety, Miss Manners, who has long maintained that one can only teach manners to one’s own children. You can’t teach your friend, but you can … well … mold her into understanding that when she shows colossal e-boorishness you will take your leave. Keep it simple and say a version of this every time before you get up and walk away, no further discussion:

Megan, it looks like you’re deep into your research, which you seem to regard as more interesting than my company. I’d hate for our conversation to interrupt what you’re doing. I’ll leave now so I won’t distract you. Another time.

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