Gadget-Based Dating Gaffes

In today’s world of constant contact, can you check your messages without putting your date’s interest in check? Not likely. Learn how to avoid these technology-related dating disasters.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

met a guy for drinks. He was wearing a wireless earpiece. I felt like I was with Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. I asked him if he’d mind removing it. His response: “Don’t be a Luddite. Besides, I don’t want to miss any calls.” We chatted a bit and when he took the first call, I paid for my drink, mouthed “thank you” and had Scotty beam me up to safety far, far away.

Manhattanite Jillian Lubarsky had a coffee-and-flea-market date scheduled, but hadn’t planned on sharing her date’s attention. “He was on his phone the
These sins may be forgivable if you really dig the dude.
entire time,” recalls Lubarsky. “He called his uncle who lives in the neighborhood, his older brother to plan a bachelor party and a car dealership to arrange a test drive for a car he had no plan on purchasing but wanted to take ‘for a spin.’” Are you getting the picture?

If you want to date Inspector Gadget, now’s the time. But if he’s wired all the time, you may not want to be wired to him. That said, you don’t want to sink to his level and match his rude behavior with a breach of etiquette of your own. We asked manners maven Anna Post, author and spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, for her advice on how to avoid and respond to tech-related gaffes.

Since so many people hate to be “off the grid” very long, there’s a good chance your date will be bringing along his smartphone. Knowing that, “set expectations before you go out,” says Post, who suggests making a preemptive strike before you meet in person. “Say something like, ‘I hope we can switch off our phones for our date — I’d really love to focus on you’ or ‘Looking forward to meeting you, please put the phone away until after dinner.’ It sounds hokey, but if that’s what you want, ask for it.”

If that’s not to your liking (or if he doesn’t comply), you can provide a gentle correction once you’re together. If he’s sporting a distracting gadget or attachment, ask him politely to remove it. If he’s checking calls, scores or emails, ask him to turn off the device. “Ask nicely, followed with ‘I’d love to have your full attention’ and a smile,” Post notes. It’s direct, but also kind of flirty. That might flatter him into disengaging! “If you’re someone who has trouble being direct, you could take a more passive approach, like asking, ‘Oh, are you expecting an important call?’”

In either case, there’s no need to explain yourself thoroughly to your date. “Keep it short and simple — long-winded explanations aren’t necessary,” notes Post. Plus, you could come off sounding like a nag or a whiner. If anyone comes out of this looking bad, it shouldn’t be you!

And if you don’t get what you want, then what? “Be polite and say thanks, and then get out of there,” Post says. “Keep looking for the guy who’s considerate!”

These sins may be forgivable if you really dig the dude. But don’t kid yourself: at some point, it could come down to you or his iPhone, Blackberry or some other gadget — and you don’t come with the option to install 150,000 applications.

Some tech-related activities, like sexting someone else, are a total breach of dating etiquette and grounds for immediate dismissal. Sue Shore’s date was texting when she arrived, but the Los Angeles single thought nothing of it. When her date put his phone down to get their coffees, it pinged with a
I’d be upset because that’s bringing someone else to the table.
sound indicating he’d received a new text. “I shouldn’t have, but it was in plain sight, so I peeked at it. He had been sexting another woman! I was fuming,” says Shore.

Though tempted to throw the scalding coffee on the guy when he returned, she just sat there, listening to him make small talk. When she finished her drink, Shore left. She never responded to another message or call from him. Even in a post Tiger Woods-world, you can still expect to encounter the occasional cell phone philanderer.

“If I was on a date and saw someone messaging anyone, I’d be upset because that’s bringing someone else to the table. That’s game over for me, personally,” Post says. “It’s not OK — and not just because someone in the etiquette field said so. You know where he’s going and it’s not with you. So say, ‘Thanks for dinner, but I’m going to head home’ and then leave.” Leave? Even if you have to call a cab, yes, leave. After all, your date’s mentally gone somewhere else already, too.

These three examples have one thing in common: they show a lack of respect and consideration on the part of the technology addict. “One way you show respect is to give your full attention,” Post notes. “That’s why you should hop off your device. When people are inconsiderate like this, they’re not fully engaged and invested. That’s a red flag in the dating world.”

Certainly there are times when a dude needs his Droid — he’s on call for work, checking on a sick friend or has kids at home with a babysitter. But if he’s pushing buttons that are pushing your buttons, you’re better leaving him to own devices.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer in North Carolina whose college nickname was “Miss Gentle Breeding.”
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