Is using your mobile phone in public ruder than you think?

awkward phone call

Do you think it is OK to use your phone while eating? How about to make call in a restaurant? Or to take a photo at a family meal?

A new study has revealed quite how rude some people think these activities are, and it suggests that the Americans asked still have a strong feeling that it’s often inappropriate to whip out our smartphones in company.

The Pew Research Center interviewed 3,217 American adults – including 175 who don’t use a mobile – about phones and social interactions. It asked about any use and didn’t differentiate between using a phone to take or make a call and using it to read a message, or to take a photo or play a song.

It found that only 77% think it’s “generally OK” to use a mobile while walking down the street, some 23% do not. Three quarters of those asked think it’s fine while on public transport but fewer, 74%, think so while waiting in a queue.

A resounding 62% said it was “generally not OK” to use your phone in a restaurant, while 88% disapproved of mobile usage at a family dinner.

The biggest mobile no-nos for Americans, though, are using a phone during a meeting (a 94% disapproval rating), in the cinema or other quiet public spaces (95%) and at a church or worship service (96%).

Don't pull your phone out in the cinema or church.
Don’t pull your phone out in the cinema or church.

The outlook for any startups planning a Shazam for sermons looks bleak, then, but Pew found that 89% of mobile users surveyed admitted to using their phone during their most recent social gathering.

Some 61% read texts or emails, although only 52% sent them. Photos or videos were taken by 58%, while 52% received an incoming call and 33% made an outgoing one. Apps were used by 29% while 25% searched or browsed the web.

Are phones taking us away from our friends and family? Pew found that 16% of people used their phone because they “were no longer interested in what the group was doing” while 10% wanted to “avoid participating in what the group was discussing” – arguably a useful social function in its own right.

But its research cites several “group-contributing” reasons for using a mobile during a social gathering, from the 38% of people who are searching for information they thought would be interesting for the group, to the 41% sharing something from the event via text, email or social networks.

One big caveat to all these figures is that Pew only surveyed adults. If it asked younger teenagers whether it’s acceptable to use their phones during a family dinner, for example, the response might have been quite different.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 26th August 2015 10.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010