Should We Ask Attendees to Turn Off Their Phones?

The evidence is mounting that phones fracture our attention and are distracting to those around us. Is it time to become more intentional about how we use them around others?

Science journalist Catherine Price is the author of How to Break Up With Your Phone, which provides evidence of the many ways in which our phones are interfering with our ability to think deeply and creatively and coaches readers on how to establish new smartphone habits. So when she speaks to groups on the topic, most people in the audience, “tend to feel guilty about looking at their phones,” she said. 

But Price still makes a point of asking everyone to get out their phones and turn them off. “And then I make some comment like, ‘Some of you are probably hating me right now,’ and that normally gets laughs because they are,” she said. “And even as I’m saying this I’m anxious for them, because what if they miss an important call? So then I say, ‘Well, if you need to check your phone, I just ask that you step out into the hallway to do it. Just as you would step out if you needed to use the bathroom, you wouldn’t do that in this room.’

Price uses the request as “an opportunity to thank people for choosing to give their time to the experience, and to say that it’s very distracting for me as a speaker to see phones,” she said. “I make the point that this is really a question of etiquette. We have not yet decided what we want the etiquette to be around our phones.”

How should we define phone etiquette for meetings? Take our survey below. 

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.