Skip to navigationSkip to content
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
Why are we okay with this?
MANNERS 2.0

Study: It’s okay to use your phone while walking down the street but not at dinnertime

By Shelly Banjo

Reporter

Nothing can be more annoying than people who walk down the street staring at their phones. Same goes for friends who swipe through Tinder or Facebook while out to dinner, making it feel like there’s something they’d rather be doing.

But now that 90% of Americans have cell phones with them at all times (yes, even in the bathroom), what’s considered socially acceptable while hanging out with friends or walking in public is quickly changing.

And curmudgeons like me are going to have to deal with it.

As it turns out, most Americans are totally fine with using their cell phones while walking down the street, waiting in line, or taking public transportation, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center on what it’s calling “Manners 2.0.”

Thankfully, the same isn’t true for family dinner, during a meeting, or at a movie theater, where people are generally not okay with using their cell phones—at least for now.

Americans are split on phone usage at restaurants, with 62% against the habit. The picture looks bleaker when looking at 18 to 29 year olds, 50% of whom said it’s okay to use their phone at restaurants. (Let’s hope lovers of food and conversation can stem this tide as long as possible before the urge to share on Instagram what we’re eating completely takes over.)

Despite the fact that we all do it, most of us hate it. Most of us think it hurts the conversation and atmosphere of the gathering, according to Pew. Women, whites, and older cellphone users are generally more offended than others.

And while most of us use our phones to post photos of our get-togethers (45%) or share something that occurred in the group on Facebook or other social-networking sites (41%), there’s a sizable share of people (30%) who use their phone to disengage or because they’re no longer interested in what the group they are hanging out with is doing.

Now that we know that everyone is doing it—but that no one likes it—can we pull ourselves away from the addiction and stop? Pretty please? Plenty of people say that there is hope yet. But it’s not going to be easy.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.