A friend of mine was forced to leave a drinks party with three friends because they spent more time scrolling through their Facebook feeds than having a proper conversation around the table. Does that ever happen to you?

Dean and Suzy barely said a word to each other all night.

Today’s dilemma: is it ever okay to ask your friend to switch off their phone while you’re getting together? And does “where” you are make a difference? For example, is it more or less offensive to check your phone around the dinner table than at a backyard BBQ?

While you’re contemplating that, check out this video from clever American blogger, Brian Perez. He’s invented the phone-stacking game. The explanation is over the jump.

The object of the game is simple enough. If you’re at, say, a restaurant with your friends, or at a dinner party and so on, participants simply stack their cell phones at the center of the table. The idea is that it will be difficult for mobile-addicted participants to resist picking up their cell phone for fear of missing out on tweets, the latest in adorable kitten videos and, well, you get the idea. Should you lose at the “phone stacking” game by picking it back up, you’ll be faced with having to pay the bill for the entire party.

What do you think? Will that really fix the problem? Or is it just a band-aid solution to plain old bad manners?

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    • Elphaba says:

      11:16am | 13/01/12

      I don’t use my phone at dinner, or at the movies, or anywhere where my attention is supposed to be focused on someone else.  It’s rude.

      If you’re a doctor on call, etc, yeah, I get it.  But you Facebook feed does not need to be checked at the movies or at dinner.  Contrary to popular belief, most people are not that important, that you need to interrupt time with one friend to check on what another one is doing.

      Christ, I sometimes don’t answer my phone when I’m at home with a book and are otherwise unoccupied.  The phone is for my convenience, not someone else’s, and I will answer it when *I* feel like, not when you feel like.


    • redvixen says:

      01:12pm | 13/01/12

      @ Elphaba - I’m with you.  My phone is for my convenience and I answer it when *I* want to. 

      When I first met the new boyfriend of my best friend we went to a restaurant for dinner.  He barely said hello before he got on his phone, and that’s where he stayed for the next half an hour.  As I’d re-arranged some plans so I could meet him I was a bit annoyed.  So I told him that if he was busy with whatever was keeping him attached to his phone (both SMS and talk) that we could reschedule because I’d really like to get to know him and couldn’t do that if he was on the phone.  To this day he doesn’t use his phone if we’re in a social situation….but he does it with all her other friends.

    • nihonin says:

      01:33pm | 13/01/12

      I don’t use my phone at dinner, generally I find it easier to use a knife and fork.

    • James says:

      03:55pm | 13/01/12

      Redvixen, I just had the same experience last week. Met my friend’s new girlfriend, we exchanged hellos, nice to meet you all that, within 10 seconds and for the next half hour she sat and texted and talked and didn’t say a word other than to smile sheepishly when i said, “gee, this is scintilating conversation isn’t it, your a very dynamic conversationalist where did you learn your charm from”? I said it with a cheeky grin on my face but she got the message. She then had her sister come to the dinner and sat there expecting to have the bill paid for both of them. I just turned to my friend and said not a chance and picked up the bill looked at her and her sister and said ok we each owe $80 odd dollars (HK), they looked shocked and taken aback. They then left straight away to go to a club and I turned to my friend and said ” get rid of her, if she does that at a function with colleagues senior or otherwise you will look like an idiot”. He broke it off two days later with her asking “why, what’s the problem”? Ho hum. If I need to use my phone, I always say “excuse me I just have to answer this or excuse me I need to send this text it is important.”

    • Tator says:

      06:01pm | 13/01/12

      in some cultures it is really bad form to stab someone in the back of the hand with a mobile phone, even worse than using a fork too. smile

    • Pandabater says:

      11:38am | 13/01/12

      For dogs sake Dean, sit up straight, have a shave, wash that crap off your arm & take that stupid thing off your head while you are at the table. Then learn some manners.

    • Aidan says:

      11:46am | 13/01/12

      I say let them go.

      Then whenever they try to talk to you, while they’re mid-sentence, just yell; “IGNORE!”

      Hours of fun!

    • Pone says:

      11:46am | 13/01/12

      Try living in East Asia, in particular South Korea, and try implementing these social rules. It’s impossible, most people will happily talk on their smartphones whenever and wherever.
      Once smartphones saturate the market in Australia (and believe me, they haven’t when you compare the rate to other countries) i think this will become the social norm whether society as a whole accepts it or not. We will simply follow the lead of the youth.

    • AFR says:

      12:01pm | 13/01/12

      Actually, I read somewhere that Australians were one of the fastest uptakers of smartphones (however, I only finally got one last week). But on topic I have also seen this kind of behaviour more amoungst my Asian friends. One female in particular has to really restrain herself from using it when we’re at dinner etc, as she knows how rude I find it.

    • Just Sayin' says:

      04:59pm | 13/01/12

      I live in Singapore.  I was out for dinner with a group of friends the other night and we played the phone stack game.  No one caved, no one complained, and we all talked to each other more than usual.  We have decided to do it regularly.

      So no, it’s not impossible to do this in Southeast Asia, it’s not even difficult. You just have to try.

    • hot tub political machine says:

      11:48am | 13/01/12

      Hottub is legendary for never answering his phone….one of the reasons for this is that hottub always turns his phone off when at the table. Obvious exceptions for things like anticipating a birth/relative in hospital ect.

      Also 2nd Elph’s opinion above – you purchase a phone for your convenience – not so anyone can call you whenever they want.

    • Just Sayin' says:

      05:00pm | 13/01/12

      But Hottub has another annoying habits, like talking about himself in the third person.  grin

    • Punters Pal says:

      05:37pm | 13/01/12

      Only wankers refer to themselves in third person. Worse than being on the phone.

    • nihonin says:

      07:59am | 14/01/12

      nihonin agrees with the above two comments.

    • Kika says:

      11:58am | 13/01/12

      I’ll ignore my phone at home. If I get a text I’ll read it when I feel like it. Depends on what social situation you are in. Family = all the time (boring!) Friends = No way. You DO NOT have to let everyone else know you are at such and such with so and so. Anyone who must insist on broadcasting the fact they have a social life mustn’t really have one. I won’t even take photos. People who take photos when they are out with friends only to make sure they can post on facebook are downright screaming for attention… who cares. Partner = Depends. He usually dumps me as soon we get anywhere to go to the toilet so I have to sit there looking like a weirdo having dinner on my own so I distract myself by checking out my phone. Haha.

    • Tatty_Anne says:

      04:00pm | 13/01/12

      What’s the average age of punchers?  42?

      If you ask the young’uns, they’ll tell you yes, they do need to let everyone know every single thing that happens to them the minute if happens.

      As one of more mature years, I feel a bit left out of the loop, but I still refuse to Facebook.

    • Simples says:

      07:35am | 14/01/12

      About 17.

      Reading/writing comprehension, about Year 7 standard or lower

      And the IQ is about 70. Would be higher, if the hordes of astro-turfing Young Liberal tools weren’t dragging it right down.

    • SimonFromLakemba says:

      12:03pm | 13/01/12

      Its the height of rudeness to be on your phone whilst at dinner or when in someones company.

      Most of the time they are only on it to Twitter or Facebook anyways.

    • elvisroe says:

      12:04pm | 13/01/12

      I love the irony of a communication device actually retarding genuine face-to-face communication. 

      Imagine if someone broke out a book in the middle of a dinner conversation, read a few quick lines and chuckled to themselves.  It’d be rude right?  Same deal.

      Live in the present for a minute people and just enjoy where you are and who your with!!!

    • Janey says:

      12:11pm | 13/01/12

      When I drive a few hours from the sticks to town to meet up with friends for dinner, a party or whatever, and they insist on spending the time I made for them on their phones - I don’t ever bother to do the drive for them again, no matter how many times they text me!

    • S.L says:

      12:17pm | 13/01/12

      At my nieces 21st in August there was a table of drop dead beautiful chickybabes right in the middle of the action. All dolled up like christmas trees. Not one of them took their eyes away from their iphones all evening. I say to those girls GET A LIFE!

    • MarkS says:

      12:18pm | 13/01/12

      No it does not happen to me. Rude behaviour of that level is unacceptable. I would make my displeasure known.

    • Luke says:

      12:18pm | 13/01/12

      I wouldn’t take offence if someone did it around me, it’s just a new form of body language that says they are not interested in the company.

      Real friends would be interested in interacting..get some new friends..

    • Scotchfinger` says:

      12:19pm | 13/01/12

      Actually there are sound evolutionary reasons why we are prone to checking our phones. As hunter-gatherers, the most successful hunters were those that were constantly listening in to conversations about ourselves; doing what anthropologists call ‘social feedback actualisation’.  This makes sense, as it would have given the hunters more chance of survival if members of their tribe were planning to kill them, exclude them etc. So there is no sense in stopping people checking phones, it is an ancient survival instinct that we would ignore at our peril!

    • Dr FOD says:

      03:12pm | 13/01/12

      This reads so much better when done in your best David Attenborough voice and imaginary crickets chirping in the background.

    • Scotchfinger says:

      07:40pm | 13/01/12

      Thanks Dr FOD, I appreciate it when people take my scientific views seriously. I can explain most facets of human behaviour from an evolutionary psychology perspective, it all makes sense somehow. For instance, I am trying to be noticed on this blog so as to meet a young woman and thus continue my selfish genes…

    • Jason Todd says:

      08:02am | 14/01/12

      But Scotchfinger, can you explain from an evolutionary perspective why your namesake are always the first biscuits to dissapear from a packet of Arnott’s Assorted?

    • Nathan Explosion says:

      12:22pm | 13/01/12

      It’s one thing to check your phone when you get an SMS or to check the time (I’m allergic to metal and can’t wear a watch. I could wear a plastic one, but they don’t really make them for 30+ men), another entirely to respond to that non-urgent text or checking Facebook or emails.

    • Rose says:

      12:48pm | 13/01/12

      It is equally rude to be on the phone when being served in a shop. As I work in pharmacy we often have to explain new medications or contra-indications to customers and cannot properly do that if they are on the phone. It amazes me that some people are angry or offended when they come to be served and I tell them I’ll wait till they’re finished on the phone to complete the transaction. How dare I?

    • Nafe says:

      01:15pm | 13/01/12

      I’m with you, I wouldn’t serve anyone while on the phone. If for some reason I go into a shop and someone has called, I just tell them i’ll call them back when i’m done shopping.

    • Mayday says:

      12:58pm | 13/01/12

      Rude, rude, rude.
      When I spend time with my adult sons they know I won’t tolerate use of a mobile phone at the dinner table…....it is family time and good to be in the here and now occasionally!   

      After a few years of having to repeat myself over and over or tell them where they were in the conversation I told them enough is enough.

      We often eat out in little inner city establishments and the picture above is so, so typical of young dinners in particular.

    • neo says:

      01:10pm | 13/01/12

      Ok gramps.

    • neo says:

      01:03pm | 13/01/12

      Fark, rude, crude, if you wanna do stuff on your phone, do it, if anyone gets offended, they are probably a girl.

      Instead of throwing a hissy fit, make fun of them for being Facebook addicts or whatever.

    • Tim says:

      01:08pm | 13/01/12

      The worst I’ve had of this is a female friend who will not only use her smartphone whilst at dinner but will be actively texting random guys she met on a dating site while out with friends.
      It’s not only rude but quite grubby.

    • FridayPunch says:

      01:12pm | 13/01/12

      Using smart phones inappropriately is annoying. But then again, so is the overuse of the “airbunnies”. Are you quoting someone, or are you emphasising a point? As I say to to the tantrumming children I regularly encounter in my house, use your words.

    • Kerryn says:

      01:20pm | 13/01/12

      One of the many reasons I dumped my ex-he just would not put down his iPhone!  Even in the middle of a conversation with my grandmother!

      How hard is it?

    • neo says:

      03:40pm | 13/01/12

      Good to see people breaking up over serious issues raspberry

    • Just Sayin' says:

      05:05pm | 13/01/12

      Bad manners is a serious issue, neo.

    • Roar says:

      07:20pm | 13/01/12

      neo, she did say “One of the MANY reasons…”

      It would be a valid reason for me too. If anyone was disrespectful to my grandmother then I would take it as a sign that I wasn’t that important to them.

    • Ben C says:

      01:25pm | 13/01/12

      The only times I check my phone when in the company of others is to actually check the time, or if I’m expecting a call from someone we are expecting to turn up. Other than that, the phone stays in my pocket.

      When it’s just me and my fiance, however, phones are always out - invariably we always talk about something that we end up having to research.

    • Martin says:

      01:38pm | 13/01/12

      If I’m ‘face-to-face’ conversing with someone (on the street, at a restaurant, by the water-cooler) and they interupt me to play with their smart-phone (be it Facebook, Twitter, status check, email notification or Dog Forbid: an incoming call) I ‘switch off’ and walk away. I’ve got better things to do than waste my time on rude arseholes. Mobile devices are great but learn some simple manners people !

    • Nathan says:

      01:44pm | 13/01/12

      I once went on a date with this girl and my phone rang during dinner. I refused to answer it as I thought it would be seen as rude, but instead my date thought I was being rude by *not* answering the phone, and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t take the call. Bizarre.

    • Manners says:

      02:51pm | 13/01/12

      That’s not bizarre. Yes, if you’d forgotten to put it on silent or through to voicemail, listening to a phone ring repeatedly until it rings out is pretty tedious for your companion, not to mention all the other diners. Rejecting the call, THEN hitting silent, is probably the most graceful approach.

    • Nathan says:

      05:09pm | 13/01/12

      No, I switched it to silent and let it ring out, I didn’t let it sit there annoying everyone. She thought it was rude that I wasn’t answering the call full stop.

    • thatmosis says:

      02:50pm | 13/01/12

      To switch off your phone whilst at a dinner or somewhere where face to face meetings are taking place requires good manners and from what Ive seen they have gone out the window. We have a rule in our house that the only mobile that is allowed is the one we use as our main phone, others have to either turn theirs off or leave, simple.
      As already said If I am talking to someone and they interrupt to answer their phone i just walk away and ignore them, not manners you say, maybe not but that reaction always amkes people ask why and i tell them that they were rude to me and do not deserve to continue any converstaion that we were having.
      Unfortunately it has come that people think that they cannot live without immediately answering their phones in no matter what circumstances including driving their cars at high speed on highways.

    • Melrusk says:

      04:36pm | 13/01/12

      O for Frack sake, how hard is it to understand, if you need a device to occupy your attention your company is clearly unsatisfactory to your particular needs.
      If this becomes an ongoing issue in your life then you yes YOU need to make the choice to change this, not some APP or some social media expert.

    • Old Bert says:

      05:29pm | 13/01/12

      Haven’t got much of a face left, after the skipper bought her down over Bremmen, bless him. Not about to write a book about it anyway. I never answer the phone, it’s not for me most times. It’s okay for a lady to excuse herself to powder her face at a restaurant. She usually goes with another lady I believe.

    • TCM says:

      06:38pm | 13/01/12

      Turn the ruddy things off…I dread the day when plane passengers will be able to talk on theirs in flight….imagine a 12 Hour plane trip listening to someone elses phone conversation…..........................
      Recently was at a dinner in a private house , they have 4 kids ( 10 - 17 yrs), ALL on their phones during dinner and not a word from the parents…..unbelievable !

    • PS says:

      06:25am | 14/01/12

      I hear you. I think one of the greatest things about the new york subway is its lack of cell phone reception - saves me hours of listening to tedious conversations!

    • Kate says:

      05:52pm | 14/01/12

      I agree. I always have a little cheer to myself when the train goes through the city loop in Melbourne and the loud, obnoxious talkers lose their mobile phone reception.

    • I, Claudia says:

      07:05pm | 15/01/12

      And Kate, have you noticed that that obnoxious phone-users absolutely must shriek into their phones as loudly as possible whilst conversing on the train? They’re perfectly capable of maintaining their “inside voices” in any other circumstances, but JUST IN CASE the mic on their phone is insufficient for them to communicate their point to their unfortunate listeners (those on the train and those on the other end of the line) they insist upon screaming rather than speaking into their phones. Then, they’ll finish their call, and invariably they’ll dial yet another number so that they can continue shrieking their way through the journey. And at the risk of stereotyping, for some reason, the worst offenders seem to be of Gen X.


      10:20pm | 13/01/12

      Hi Lucy,

      I personally feel that these days we are really treating our smart phones as a fashion accessory a bit like a designer hand bag! I can understand why the young teenagers seem to be that way, because it is like a fashion statement & they are truly trying to discover themselves in the process. 

      I also assume that having something in our hands constantly takes the pressure off us?  May be not though, it only makes us more visible to the outside world, right?

      I also want to add that it is slightly immature for mature adults to the same thing in public places such as restaurants.  And a bit annoying for the rest of us trying to have an intelligent conversation with the present company.  I really do not think that it is about bad manners but not having any manners at all.  We just have to get our priorities right for a change!

      Are we actually there for the special occasion, mixing with friends as well as socialization or watching others play with their electronic toys?  Kind regards to your editors.

    • Martin says:

      11:10pm | 13/01/12

      They are no longer your friend’s friends, Lucy. They’re now captives of the phone companies.

    • Chris says:

      01:52am | 14/01/12

      I hate to appear ignorant of modern trends, but isn’t “phone stacking” just a trendy way of saying “Turn Your Phone Off During A Conversation”?
      It’s not a trendy term, and it won’t catch on, but I’m going to organise a TYPODAC party right now. As soon as I can email all my friend.

    • Galooloo says:

      10:17am | 14/01/12

      I once considered that when someone took out their smart phone in the restaurant lacked manners and insight and whatever. Then I found myself tempted to do the same and realized - big ah ha moment - I was friggin bored. My usually uninteresting email and rarely interesting facebook was better than the present conversation.

      Next time someone gets the smart phone out at the dinner table consider the fact that you are probably boring them to death and call it a day.

    • NZ says:

      01:04pm | 16/01/12

      Was absolutely astonished when at the movies I saw a girl pull her phone out and check her facebook!  Seriously, you’ve paid $20, you’ve made the effort to get dressed up and get outta the house, but you can’t go 2 hours without checking facebook?  Found that pretty f***ed up….....

    • Kate S. says:

      04:10pm | 17/01/12

      Going on a first date Friday and there will no phones.


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