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A few weeks ago, I was comfortably hidden (or so I thought) in the back of Leidy Labs 10, a lecture hall that seats hundreds, responding to my friend’s story of weekend drama via text. I’ve always considered myself to be polite, so I was shocked when the lecturer unabashedly called me out for texting. While it’s always rough getting called out, it’s usually for good reason. I hadn’t considered my divided attention in that context to be rude, but I was incredibly embarrassed.

Texting, perhaps because it feels so discreet, lacks clear boundaries in determining when it’s appropriate. But I’ve started thinking a lot more about what those boundaries might be. And I have some ideas. And while I’m no Ms. Manners, here are some guidelines that I think can help all of us have a little more texting tact.

Personal Conversations

It’s always a bad idea to text while talking to someone. My brother made this mistake over Thanksgiving break, and my mom was livid. She’s not the only parent I’ve seen react that way.

Even without the generation gap, it’s a little annoying when friends do the same thing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt slighted when someone checks her phone while we’re having coffee together. It’s so tempting to just glance down, or pull it out when you hear a buzz, but very few of us (and definitely not me) are important enough to have some expected impending emergency (think: wife in labor, small kids with babysitter). I’ve started turning my phone off when meeting one-on-one with friends. It seemed weird at first, but amazingly (or not) no pressing disaster has required my immediate attention.


Meetings are so boring! When the conversation goes off-topic, I think it’s fine to text quietly under the table. That has saved my sanity on more than one occasion. But if you are being spoken to — even as a group — resist the temptation to zone out and text. Meetings can be inefficient as they are ... so why make it worse? At least if everyone’s listening, I feel a little more like it’s worth my time to be there.

Intimate settings: dinner, support groups, theaters, etc.

If I was on a date and a guy sent a text or e-mail over dinner, that would be a deal breaker, ladies. Also, it’s super aggravating when you’re in a theater and there’s some schmuck clicking away on a lit screen nearby.

On a more serious note, I saw someone texting at the Sexual Violence Speak Out while one girl shared her feelings on the subject at the front of the room. If I were in her place, I’d be really hurt if I looked up and saw that.


I know it’s tough not to, but it’s really kind of rude. No matter what the size of the room is, or how many people are in it, a professor is addressing you as one of the people in that lecture hall, and he or she deserves your respect. And believe me (see earlier), it’s tough to know if the lecturer can see you.


While I’m at it, I’ll add my two cents about taking notes on laptops. I know many of us can type notes faster than we can write, but if you have Gilt Group and a couple Gchats up, you might as well be listening to a recording of the lecture, rather than actively listening. It’s already tough to be engaged with a screen in front of your face — being online only makes it harder.

They don’t call them CrackBerries for nothing. Our addiction to multitasking is getting out of hand. So for everyone’s sake, I’m going to call my friends out when they text tactlessly, and I’ll continue to be more aware of my own phone faux pas. I encourage you to do the same.

Katherine Rea is a College junior from Saratoga, Calif. Her e-mail address is

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