Senior Life

Cell phones have made manners a thing of the past

by Len Lear
Posted 6/8/23

My wife and I had dinner recently with a much younger adult who spent quite a bit of time on a cell phone.

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Senior Life

Cell phones have made manners a thing of the past


My wife and I are old and, I guess, really “old school.” We had dinner recently with a much younger adult who spent quite a bit of time during dinner on their cell phone (don't want to I.D. the gender), talking and texting. I did mention politely that I thought this was poor etiquette, but when I mentioned this to another person half our age, I was told that I am old fashioned, that times have changed and that I am living in the past. 

So I posted on the Nextdoor West Mt. Airy website, asking if we are hopeless old fogeys, or is it still considered rude to talk on the phone and text when having dinner with friends/acquaintances? Within three weeks (May 4-25) there were 17,400 views and 674 replies. The question obviously struck a nerve. Of course, I only have room in this column for a minuscule representative sampling of the many replies, but here are a few:

  • Ellen Stevenson, Flourtown: “Younger folks who rely on their phone chatter that keeps them constantly connected with friends is an addiction ... They may never know the pleasure we find in just having dinner and conversation in person with good friends.”
  • Laura Kate, Chestnut Hill: “Civility and kindness is a standard that does not belong to a particular time period. Period.”
  • Tia Sutter, East Falls: “Cell phones and apps are actually designed to be addictive. I remember when people used to smoke in restaurants, movie theaters, on planes, in hospitals, subways, food stores, elevators. There's got to be push back on these addictions.”
  • Arthur Campbell, West Mt. Airy: “I too am 'old school,' Len. My grandkids do the same thing! It's as if the cell phone has now become a part of their body. They can't make a move without it!”
  • Marle Matthews, Chestnut Hill: “Children are texting all the time. I guess by the time they get married, they’ll stand in front of the altar and text vows to the person without even looking them in the face.”
  • Colleen R., West Mt. Airy: “I went on a dinner date. The guy put his phone on the table, but 15 minutes in, he answers a call and proceeds to sit there and have a heated conversation with his ex-girlfriend! Needless to say, I left!”
  • Samirah Amantullah, Fort Washington: “I am 71, and I can't stand to go out to eat with cell phone addicts … I have grandkids, teenagers, and they sleep with their phones. It's crazy.”
  • Barry Wahrhaftig, Jenkintown: “It's probably the new normal, but it's rude and anti-social. To answer your question, yes; it's a generational thing for the most part.”
  • Charmaine Ensinger, Ambler: “Therapist here. A lot of younger clients use their cell phone because they get anxiety with sitting and talking to people and are using the phone to cope with it.”
  • Erin Adele, Conshohocken: “I've worked in the restaurant industry for 8+ years. I'm 23, and one of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't even bother to hang up the phone when they're dining. It's incredibly rude that they can't spare a few moments to give basic eye contact and attention to someone who is there to help them.”
  • Cora Barlow, Mt. Airy: “These younger people are always telling seniors how old they are and to get with the program … Why bother to go to dinner if your phone is going to entertain you? Stay home and eat with your phone.”
  • Johanna Jones, West Mt. Airy: “My niece brought her cell phone to the dinner table, and I told her if she didn’t turn that thing off, it was going in the trash. I’m not that old, but having manners has nothing to do with how old you are.”
  • Renee King, Mt. Airy: “I consider it very rude, but these young people today don't know anything different ... I put blame on the parents also who allow it because young people won't know if they aren't taught.”
  • Roy Barksdale, East Oak Lane: “I screamed at a young lady walking across Roosevelt Boulevard while looking down at her phone. I told her why it was extremely dangerous to do what she was doing. Maybe I saved her life ... These kids that have raised themselves need us.”
  • Dorothy Hermann, Overbrook Farms: “It’s insufferably rude to consult your cellphone while dining with other people. Part of the problem is that young people are influenced by television in which characters call and text incessantly. If a classic like if 'Casablanca' were remade today, at least 80% of the plot would be revealed via text messages.” 
  • Connie Kilfeather, Flourtown: “Good manners are ageless. They don't have a time stamp!”
  • Ani M., Chestnut Hill: “It’s not just rude; it’s a real loss. The younger adult has no idea what they’re missing in terms of human connection, saying no to the onslaught of everything coming through their phone. I grieve for what humanity has lost with the advent of cell phones and social media.”
  • Pat Smiley, West Oak Lane: “When I take my granddaughter out to lunch, she’s on her phone the whole time. Even when the food comes, she’s watching videos on YouTube. I think it’s very rude, but I’m 'old school,' don’t like it and can’t get used to it, so I limit my lunches.”

Len Lear can be reached at