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    Miss Conduct

    Advice: My friends think their phones are more important than our conversation

    Is there a tactful way to get my friends to put away their devices when we’re out together?

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    Most of my friends have teenage or twentysomething children whom they text whenever their phones “ping.” One friend actually puts her phone on the dinner table so she can continually check messages. A husband of another friend streamed the baseball game when he got bored. I think this behavior is rude, but it seems to be the acceptable practice. I put my phone away and don’t check it at all. How do I handle this? I know I’m fighting a losing battle.

    E.S. / Newton

    Have you asked? You may feel you shouldn’t have to, but if you haven’t, you’re not fighting a losing battle so much as surrendering in advance. It’s not enough to practice good phone hygiene yourself. People don’t see others’ behavior as setting a good example; they write it off as a matter of personal taste. So, ask! “Do you mind putting the phone away? I’d love to really connect, and I don’t feel I can.”

    Saying what you want opens up a conversation. Some of your friends may have good reasons to be in constant contact with their kids. Others may not have realized they’ve developed a phone addiction. Telling people they are rude shuts conversation down. This is sometimes the desired result, but probably not in your case.


    Streaming a baseball game while in company is undoubtedly a faux pas, but if I were socializing with people who described me as “a wife of a friend,” I too might be tempted to check out with some quality video content.

    Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology. Send questions to Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.