How to Use Your Smartphone Without Annoying Your Date

By: Maralee McKee

People email me a lot of questions.

Until recently, my in-box was overflowing with queries and complaints about the problems that arise because no one RSVP’s. It’s sad, but I think people have given up hope that others will be courteous enough to let them know whether they should prepare a place at their party for them. Maybe it’s because I’ve shared the etiquette of it in posts like this one and this quick one, but that’s no longer the number-one question I receive. (It’s still high at number two.)

Now, my in-box overflows with a different area of questions. Everyone wants to know how to get those they’re with to put down their smartphone and pay attention to them!

I don’t blame people for being aggravated. No one wants to come in second place to a…a…a…phone!

Blog Post_Smartphone_Facebook_updated

New relationships have never gotten off the ground because of it. Friendships and romantic relationships have broken up over it. And now, judging by the letters I’m receiving, I’d say marriages, yes marriages, are in jeopardy.

Smartphones are a great thing. They literally put the world in our hands. I have no plans to give mine up; yet I’ve worked hard at training myself not to be on it when I’m around others. That includes my husband and children. That’s because if anyone deserves my best, they do.

However, some people have a harder time letting go. The cell phone becomes a siren song of notification pings, texts, emails and ringtones. Turning their full attention to the people (or for this post the one special person) who are with them in the flesh is nearly impossible.

In most cases, when it comes to one-on-one time, your best bet is to be the master of your phone. Turn it off. Put it away out of sight (and preferably out of mind). However, when on a date, there are boundaries (etiquettes) for using your cell phone that actually can add to the enjoyment of your time together instead of distracting from it.

First Things First: Get on the Same Page Technology-wise

Is this your first date? Or maybe you’re getting together over coffee to see whether a first date is in your future. Now’s a great time to find out about the other person’s technology tolerance level.

Are the two of you alike? Do you both check into FourSquare every time you go anywhere? Use Instagram every restaurant meal you eat? Jump into a live Tweet of a TV show that you’re not even watching? If so, you two have a lot of great date nights ahead of you relaxing at the Genius Bar!

However, you two aren’t a good technology match if the other person: has the Western Meadowlark birdsong as a favorite Tweet; or asked whether you were hurt when you mentioned “Yelp”; or signed up for Instagram months ago but hasn’t gotten around to posting anything. At least now you know, and the two of you can make an informed decision going forward.

Unlike sports fanatics, where the season has a beginning and an end, and unlike golf widows, where no one plays in the snow, technology is 24/7/365. You need to set up some guidelines, and follow them. If you don’t, technology will swallow your life and your relationship(s).

A good litmus test before taking out your smartphone is to ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to do with my phone bringing me closer to this person, or is it distracting me from getting closer?” If your desired phone use doesn’t have anything to do with the two of you, don’t use it. But congratulate yourself! By putting it away, you’ve just shown that you’re a people person!

Great Ways to Use Your Phone in Preparation for Your Date

In the days leading up to your date, there are ways to use your phone that can help set the stage for a better date.

• Check Yelp, UrbanSpoon and similar apps to find the best restaurants and activities nearby.

• Nab the perfect table by making your reservation via OpenTable.

• Set the perfect mood with music by using Songza. This fantastic program lets you pick music not only for your mood but for exactly what you’re doing at the moment. Let it know you’re getting dressed for a date, going on a romantic picnic in the park, or driving to the movies, and it will play the perfect music for that activity.

• Be informed about all the most talked about news by reading the top stories on the Fluent News Reader app for iPhone. (I’m sure Android has something similar.) That way, you’re not only well informed, you’re also ready with conversation starters to fill in the awkward lulls in conversation.

• Best of all, if you’re picking up your friend or meeting somewhere, text when you’re five minutes out. (Of course, don’t text while driving.)

Using Your Phone When You’re Together

• As we talked about above, get on the same page with your date technology-wise. Talk about your preferred level of smartphone usage, and remember that the person with the lower tolerance should be respected. (It’s the polite thing to do, similar to not smoking in front of a non-smoker, but without the toxic chemicals.)

• If for some reason you’re going to need to check your phone, let the person know now, explain why if appropriate, and then excuse yourself from the table or area while on your phone. Be brief and be back.

• Turn your phone off, not on vibrate, because it will distract you, and put it where you can’t see it for the duration of your date (out of sight, out of mind).

• The only things that correctly go on tables are food, drink, and the things needed to accomplish those tasks. That’s why it’s impolite to put your elbows or your cell phone on the table.

• In conversation, if something comes up that the two of you aren’t sure about, or you can’t remember whether the Jennifer Lawrence movie you’re seeing tonight starts at 7:15 PM or 7:35 PM, it’s fine to say, “That’s a great question! Let’s check Google. Is that OK with you?” In less than two minutes, you can find out that your movie starts at 7:35 PM and that indeed it was Jennifer Lawrence and not Jessica Chastain who won the Best Actress Oscar back in 2013. No gloating because you knew it was Jennifer Lawrence! Put the phone back away, and all is good because you just used it to do something that involved both of you.

Smartphone Polite Usage Quote from post

Using Your Phone to Follow Up After Your Date

• Either party may text the other to say thank you for a lovely evening thirty minutes or so after you’ve said goodbye. If it wasn’t a lovely evening, forgo this part if you think it might lead the other person on, or simply text that you appreciate being thought of for dinner. You can always compliment the restaurant and/or movie, if nothing else.

• You can also leave a voice mail or voice text, because nothing expresses you better than your actual voice. Not everyone’s phone can receive voice texts, but there’s an app that takes any phone call and sends it directly to the person’s voice mail. Genius! You can download SlyDial for just about every version of phone.

• If you took any photos on your date, don’t post them, and especially don’t tag anyone (EVER) without their permission. You can post photos of the two of you once you’re an official couple and you have the other person’s permission. Here’s a post sharing the etiquette of posting photos on social media, tagging others, and more.

• Don’t post about your date on social media. Until a couple decides that a relationship is exclusive, either party is free to date others. Still, someone else the person is dating might be hurt by seeing your post of even a casual first date on-line.

There’s nothing rude about your phone. Smartphones are great! We don’t need to stop using them to be polite. We just need to learn how to use them politely. And what that boils down to is putting the person you’re with ahead of whatever is happening on the phone.

It’s a basic rule taught in every customer service class in every department store. “Pay attention to the customer in front of you and let the phone ring.” It’s easy enough to live by as long as we live out the golden rule to treat others the way we want to be treated. Because really, do you want to be ignored in person for a phone?!

What’s Next?

There are other cell phone and smartphone posts here, here, and here if you want to know how to set the gold standard for your everyday usage.

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If you enjoyed this post, please Like, Share, Pin, Post, Tweet and email it to your friends, family and those in your social media circles who, like you, know that manners still matter! Until next time, all my best to you and yours! Keep doing what you were born to do, bless others by being you…at your best!


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Maralee McKee

About Maralee McKee

Maralee McKee is the founder of Manners Mentor. With her best-friend style, sense of humor, and knack for updating etiquette to meet our modern sensibilities, she has been referred to as "Sandra Bullock meets Emily Post!" Maralee shows you how to become the best version of yourself. No fluff. No pretense. Just you at your authentic best! The person you were always meant to be! To learn more about Maralee click on the "Meet Maralee" or "New? Start Here" links at the top of this page.

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