Smart LivingIs It Ever Acceptable to FaceTime in Public?
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Welcome to Tech Etiquette, a new advice column from Lifehacker, wherein we try to adjudicate the lawless terrain of the so-called “digital age.” Everyone’s got an opinion about everyone else’s terrible tech manners: how you should behave online, when and where it’s okay to use your phone, which emoji are acceptable at work, whether that email was rude or just terse. Tech Etiquette seeks to put these divisive issues to rest, or at least to offer a voice of reason in a an unreasonable world.
Whether you’re wondering if it’s OK to use your neighbor’s insecure wifi, or you just need to know if it’s rude to answer “k” to a text, we’ve got you covered. Send your tech etiquette questions toand we’ll see what we can do.
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Today’s question comes to us from. Alicia B. asks:
When is it acceptable to take a FaceTime call in a public space without headphones? I feel like the answer is ‘never,’ but the people I’ve encountered in coffee shops obviously don’t agree with me.
You are absolutely correct: It is not acceptable to FaceTime in a coffee shop without headphones. I’d go so far as to say it is not acceptable to FaceTime in a coffee shop with headphones. My rule of thumb is, “Anywhere a group of strangers are seated together is a bad place to talk on the phone.” So that means restaurants of any kind. Movie theaters. Outdoor cafe terraces. Buses. Planes before takeoff. The doctor’s waiting room. You get it.
Anywhere a group of strangers are seated together is a bad place to talk on the phone.
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“But everyone else is talking to each other in the coffee shop,” some boor might protest. “Why is it so horrible if I talk on my phone? Why can’t I FaceTime my girlfriend while I enjoy my latte?” And to this boor I say, you know as well as I dothat found “overhearing half a conversation—a “halfalogue”—is more distracting than other kinds of conversations because we’re missing the other side of the story and so can’t predict the flow of the conversation.” And we when we’re talking on cell phones, which is why your FaceTime conversation is distinguishable from the hum of everyone else talking to people in the same room.
Where it’s OK to FaceTime
So what public places are okay for FaceTiming? You can FaceTime in the park if you’re not at a concert. Or standing outside the movie theater. You can FaceTime in line at the supermarket if you absolutely must, but it’s not making anyone else in line’s life better—while we’re all technically standing so you’re not violating my rule, it’s still antisocial and annoying. You can FaceTime while walking down the street if you think you can actually keep moving and not trip or slow the foot traffic or get wander into traffic (you probably can’t).
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The only 100% acceptable place to FaceTime is at home or in another enclosed place where only people interested in or party to the call are within earshot.
You’re right, but don’t be an a-hole about it
Once upon a time, people didn’t have phones to even glance at in the American Airlines waiting area or the bar where they were waiting for a friend or the Amtrak to Boston, so they actually spoke to each other. Not only is it rude to talk on the phone or FaceTime in public places, it’s kind of a bummer. We’re lonely, we feel disconnected, etc. etc. but it’s within our power to actually connect with the people next to us.
The terrible thing about having good manners is everyone else is such a lout. How are we supposed to resist anarchy when only some of us are devoted to putting our phones away at the symphony? I am frustrated by this too, but beg you to resist using your good manners as a bludgeon with which to beat up on the guy FaceTiming in the restaurant. Ask the server if they would ask him to step outside. Don’t roll your eyes and sigh loudly hoping he notices you’re irritated and reforms his behavior. “Counter-etiquette”—the use of etiquette to make other people feel bad—may help you feel superior, but in the end it’s just another form of rudeness. You can be correct and also be kind.
Questions for Tech Etiquette? Email.
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