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Does Your Smartphone Go Next To The Salad Fork Or The Soup Spoon?

Jun 18, 2012
Originally published on June 18, 2012 4:22 pm

As part of a new tech segment, we're starting a social media advice column in which we'll ask experts your questions about how to behave online. This week's experts are Baratunde Thurston, former digital director of The Onion and author of How to Be Black; and Deanna Zandt, author of Share This! How You Will Change The World With Social Networking.

You can send your questions to alltech@npr.org or put them in the comments below.

This week's question: Is it bad manners to have technology at the dinner table?

Baratunde Thurston: "I'm generally not a fan of gadgets at the table, but it depends on the age of the people I'm hanging out with. These 20-somethings ... everybody just displays their devices. It becomes not a dinner, but a mobile gathering of black screens. But the tone of whoever's house you're in is probably a good rule to follow."

Deanna Zandt: "I also think that we just need to be clear about our needs and expectations. I had a boyfriend once who brought comic books with him when we went out to dinner."

Thurston: "So you said 'had a boyfriend,' so this is past tense?"

Zandt: "Yes, had — this is all past tense. But this was what his normal was. And so we ended up having an agreement where there were dinner nights where we took books with us, and then we would discuss what was going on in our comic books, and it ended up being a really nice thing. So you can facilitate what your needs are and what your normal is."

Thurston: "There's a friend of mine who has this movement called 'I am here.' And the point is, let's be present. So let's, for dinner, put that all away — unless you have a deal where we're going to talk about the tweets and text messages that we're getting."

Zandt: "Which could get really meta really fast."

Thurston: "It's the new normal."

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And now to our social media advice column where we answer your question about how to behave in the digital age. Returning this week are Deanna Zandt, author of "Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking," and Baratunde Thurston, former digital director at The Onion and author of the book "How to Be Black."

This week's question comes from a listener in Sacramento, California: Is it bad manners to have technology at the dinner table?

BARATUNDE THURSTON: I'm generally not a fan of gadgets at the table, but it depends on the age of people I'm hanging out with. These 20-somethings nowadays, you should - you have dinner with them...

(LAUGHTER)

DEANNA ZANDT: The young people.

THURSTON: ...if they even eat. And they - everybody just kind of displays their devices. It becomes not a dinner but a sort of mobile gathering of black screens.

ZANDT: Right. Right.

THURSTON: But the tone of whoever's house you're in...

ZANDT: Yes.

THURSTON: ...is probably a good rule to follow.

ZANDT: You know, I also think that we just need to be clear about our needs and expectations. I mean, I had a boyfriend once who brought comic books with him when we went out to dinner.

THURSTON: But you said had a boyfriend.

ZANDT: Had. Yeah. This is all past tense.

THURSTON: This is a past tense guy. OK, good, 'cause...

ZANDT: Past tense. But this was what his normal was. And so we ended up having an agreement where there were dinner nights where we took books with us, and then we would discuss...

THURSTON: Oh.

ZANDT: ...what was going on in our comic books, and it ended up being a really nice thing. So you can facilitate what your needs are and what your normal is.

THURSTON: You know, there's a friend of mine who has this movement called I Am Here. And the point is like, let's be present. So let's, for dinner, put that all away...

ZANDT: Yeah.

THURSTON: ...unless you have a deal where we're going to talk about the tweets and text messages that we're getting.

(LAUGHTER)

ZANDT: Which could get really meta really fast...

THURSTON: It's the new normal, right.

ZANDT: ...than new normal.

BLOCK: That's Deanna Zandt, author of "Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking," and Baratunde Thurston, former digital director at The Onion and author of the book "How to Be Black."

If you have a question for our advice column, please email it to alltech@npr.org Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.