How Can I Get My Friends to Stop Checking Their Phones Constantly?

Try these tips to encourage your friends to have manners as smart as their phones.

women-phones
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Q. I have two close female friends who live nearby, and our girls’ nights are the highlight of my week. The problem is, they are both addicted to their smartphones, and this compulsion infringes on our time together. Whether we’re sitting around a table having drinks or sprawled out on the floor crafting, I often look up to find that I’m the only one not busily scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. (I make a point of keeping my phone put away whenever I’m spending time with family or friends.) It seems like half the reason why they want to hang out is so that they can snap cute photos and broadcast what a great time we’re having. What can I say to make them stop? 

R.R.

A. It sometimes feels as if the world is turning into one big meta-experience, in which every gathering is enjoyed partly by being there and partly by representing it online. Wanting to be with your friends, minus distracting devices, is not an unreasonable wish, but your friends are probably unaware of how you feel. Here’s what I would say: “I always look forward to seeing you guys so much, and I’m craving your attention. I don’t want to be a pain, but would you consider ditching your phones while we’re together?”

And if you’re the one hosting, you could simply announce that you have a new policy of requesting visitors to turn their phones to airplane mode. (But be aware that anyone with kids at home may be unwilling to acquiesce.)

As a last resort, you could suggest playing a high-speed game, such as Bananagrams or Anomia, which demands full attention. If this activity doesn’t work to diminish gadget-gazing, at least you’ll win while your friends are distracted.

—Catherine Newman

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