By Debbie Baldwin

Everybody has a cell phone, and almost everybody texts. Texting is easy, cheap, fun, mildly illicit, and it makes you feel cool—it’s kind of like the 21st-century’s version of smoking. And not unlike smoking, it can be offensive at certain times. The good news is, after a solid decade of text capability, certain rules of order have been established; an E-tiquette, if you will. Now before you decide to forward this to the closest teenager you can find, know that I have seen as many—if not more—offenses committed by an older demographic. Texting, like chewing gum, done anywhere but in the privacy of your own room, runs the risk of offense, so here are some basic parameters.

Rule No. 1: You are not that important. Unless you are waiting for the arrival of a transplant organ or need the launch codes for a nuclear weapon, the text probably can wait. That seems simple, but it can be hard to remember when the movie is reaching its climax and your friends want to know if you’re supposed to be meeting at Bennigan’s or Applebees.

Rule No. 2: There is a difference between silent and vibrate. We can all hear that annoying little buzz-buzz as your phone dances across the table. In a weird way, it’s more irritating than a full-blown ring.

Rule No. 3: Know how your phone works. This sounds simple, but you might be surprised. Do you know how to dim your screen, where your flashlight is, how to silence a call, and how to set and control the various alerts? All useful skills.

Rule No. 4: Almost any phone-related activity is acceptable, if handled appropriately and politely. A simple,Excuse me, I need to take this, works wonders. That being said, there still are areas that are undeniably off-limits:

Forbidden at:  


She lived such a full life…But you, you’re going to hell. You may chuckle at the absurdity of this, but there’s a trend developing involving tweets and selfies at funerals.

Job Interviews

Hard to imagine a text more important than the offer.


Much like the resultant crash, this is a no-brainer.

Take off and landing

See above.

Frowned upon during:


Just make an effort—dim the screen, silence the type, be quick.


If the teacher doesn’t confiscate the phone, have at it.


Seems like this is common practice. It tells the rest of the people in the room that you have important things going on—lots of balls in the air.

Dinner Parties/Family Holiday Get-Togethers

These are presumably the most important people in your life. If you’re texting, invite that person, too.

Free-for-all places:



Grocery stores

Sports venues

West Hollywood



Public transportation 

That about covers it. As for new territory, well, we’ll cross that virtual bridge when we come to it.