Context is key, but ever-evolving rules of modern-day etiquette are also good to know. Here are some of the most important.
- Text before you call.
Gottsman, who owns the Protocol School of Texas, said you should now text someone before you call them. “It’s a social courtesy that allows the receiver to let you know if they are available. If they don’t respond, you can assume it’s a bad time to talk,” she said.
That would drive me insane, I wrote back to Gottsman. It adds extra work to respond, and isn’t that what voicemail’s for − especially now that iOS 17 shows a transcript of what the person is saying as they’re leaving a message − so you can decide if you want to pick up?
“You would assume that if someone doesn’t pick up, it’s because they can’t take your call or are in a place where they can’t speak freely. However, many people continue to call over and over again, which is a big cell phone ‘no,’” Gottsman clarified. “People’s lives are busier now, and we are all aware of how intrusive a phone call can be. A quick text first to see if someone is available alleviates an interruption in a meeting, at dinner, or during a job interview.”
It’s OK to call first if you’re reaching out to friends or family or if it’s an emergency.
Also, you don’t have to pick up if someone calls you and it’s not a good time.
Responding to a call with an automated text response is fine, especially if you add a custom reply. That happens to me a few times every day. If I’m already on the phone, I often type in a speedy personal response, such as, ‘I’m on the phone now, but will call you back as soon as I’m off.’
- When is it okay to leave a voice message?
When is the right time to leave a voicemail? If you ask someone in their teens, 20s, or even 30s, they will likely say, “never.”
Gottsman also says it’s never okay to leave a long-winded voicemail and agrees that most don’t get listened to. “Most people see you have called, and rather than listen to the voicemail, just call you back anyway. It saves time.”
It’s also essential to leave your full name and callback number, even though it often appears on screens automatically. “Don’t assume the person will recognize you just by your first name or that your message or call back number will go through clearly. Make sure they can reach you without creating extra work for them,” Gottsman noted.
Emergencies, important work messages, and emotions are often best handled via voice versus text.
It’s also OK to leave a voice message for family −anytime and any length.
“There are people who want to hear your voice and enjoy listening to your message,” Gottsman added. “But for someone you don’t know as well, ask them how they prefer to communicate.”
- Is it okay to randomly FaceTime someone?
Again, it’s fine if it’s someone close to you. But as a general rule, no. Arrange a video call first.
I recently went down an hours-long rabbit hole on this topic on both Reddit and Quora, and wow, does it make people mad when you FaceTime them without permission. “It’s the same as walking into someone’s house uninvited,” wrote one person on a Reddit AITA subgroup.
- When is it okay to leave a video voice message?
Another new iOS 17 update lets you leave a video message when someone doesn’t answer your FaceTime call. If you’re traveling and want to show something special to a loved one, show off a baby’s first steps to grandparents, or even your amazing new highlight to your BFF, it’s fine. (As long as you’re following the etiquette rules of FaceTiming in public, which is next on this list.)
But most people who aren’t related to or in love with you don’t want a video message. “Don’t assume everyone enjoys watching you on video,” Gottsman added.
That goes tenfold for a NSFW video! Just don’t.
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- Is it okay to FaceTime in public?
The answer here depends on where you are and who’s around you. Most people think it’s rude to FaceTime in a public place, especially without headphones on or when anyone else is in the background other than you.
It’s considered good form to keep a distance of at least 10 feet from the nearest person when you’re on your smartphone, especially if you’re using video of any kind. Most of us tend to talk louder on cellphones than in real life, so talk quietly and be aware of your surroundings before you turn your video camera on, period.
The number of people FaceTiming or doing social media videos in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre when we visited there this time last year was so incredibly cringey; it took away from the experience overall.
Consider going somewhere else when your actions take away from other people’s enjoyment of any public space. This includes blasting your music, playing video games, or watching videos without headphones or sound effects turned off.
Here are more smartphone manners that haven’t changed:
It’s (still) not okay to have your smartphone at the dinner table. The only exception is if you’re expecting a life-or-death text or call. In that case, let everyone around you know you might have to answer your phone.
Shhhh! Use your “inside voice,” and watch your language. Cursing might be the new “hello” for some people, but experts, it’s still considered poor manners in most public situations.
Put your phone away and do not check it during meetings, Gottsman reiterates. “Cell phones are a distraction, especially in work situations. Looking down or checking your smartphone or smartwatch appears as if you are distracted, impatient, or checking to see who is texting you,” she said.
It’s also best to keep business correspondence professional. “This includes emails as well as texts. If you have a fun, relaxed relationship with your client and they use emojis, you can feel free to respond in kind. But don’t overdo it. A well-placed emoji is fine, but allowing the emojis to take over your message is unprofessional.”
What does it mean when someone is phubbing?
Beware of ‘phubbing,’ which is snubbing other people for your phone. It happens all the time, too. Parents check social media when their kids need attention. Couples do it during “snuggle time.” I just did it a little while ago to my dog. She was staring at me to go for a walk, and I was distracted by a hilarious TikTok video.
Not only are these behaviors rude, but studies show they break up relationships, cause crowd fights, and might even hurt people — and pets — you care about the most
.Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist and on-air correspondent. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.