Skip to main content

GLOBAL – Old fashioned thank you notes written by hand. Giving up your seat for an elderly man or woman. Eating what you’re given and saying it’s lovely, even when it isn’t. These are a few things that oil our otherwise brutish human interactions, and just make the world a little bit nicer. You might disagree, but the point is – we all know what’s socially acceptable in our own cultures.

Not in cyberspace though. Communications get garbled, feelings get hurt and friendships are broken. Maybe what we need is a rule-book for mobile manners?

“The heart of etiquette and manners is how we treat each other. People are social animals and there will always be questions about how to behave. No matter how many devices we have, we still need each other,” says Daniel Post Senning, the great-great-grandson of manners guru Emily Post.

Senning is the co-author of the recently released 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette” which tackles the ‘netiquette’ of modern mobile dilemmas.  

thank you

Most pressing for many people is: 


How can you de-friend someone on Facebook?     

You hate their status updates, you don’t want them to tell your ex what you’re up to – sometimes you barely even know who they are. But yet, do you really want them to know you think so little of them? What about when they see you have de-friended them, but not someone else you both know? What if you meet them again in a work setting and it’s all very embarrassing?

This problem can be tackled with four approaches: Announce on your page that you are beginning a widespread cull and anyone may disappear without further notice. Sneakily de-friend them and hope that they have so many friends they never notice.  Keep them, but rage in real life about how much they irritate you (preferred choice for English passive-aggressives). Select ‘hide’ status updates for the person in question – they are still your ‘friend’ but you never have to read their updates and you can forget they exist.  

To call, or not to call?

According to her great-great-grandson, Emily Post would never have “called from a stall”. You may be able to get away with a toilet text, depending on what you are actually doing with your hands.

Also on the no-no list are churches and places of worship. Courtrooms are probably a bad idea unless you want to be charged with contempt.

Accepting a call, or texting during a meal is debateable – depending upon your companions. There is a probably a limit though, more than once seems rude.

What about if you are eating, or in the middle of a moment of passion? It might add to the frisson, but Emily Post would have reminded you not to do anything that alerts your caller that your attention is elsewhere. 


Posting personal news on Facebook, Twitter or by SMS can be problematic.

As a general rule posting news about other people’s children, identifying them by name, or posting photos of them, is out – unless you have their parents’ express permission. 

Spreading the word about someone’s sudden demise by social networking can also seem tacky and cold. Unless there really is no other way to tell everyone, and what you say is heartfelt and sincere. But make sure that all their close relatives know first.  

As for announcements of love – check your internal ‘yuck’ factor first.

The silent carriage?

This is where debate can get heated. There are some places you obviously shouldn’t make calls from – but personally I think public transport is perfectly ok. If people want to travel in golden silence perhaps they should take taxis, or drive cars. The rest is part of the maelstrom of human life.

But many people may disagree…..

So what would Emily Post have made of modern mobile life? “This may come as a shock but I think she would have loved it,” Daniel Post Senning says. “Emily was an early adapter…and a new media personality. One of her gifts was her understanding of how some of these new tools would fit well into a social order.” 

If you have more questions about modern mobile etiquette you can either leave  polite and well-mannered comments below, or look up the mobile version of