Friends on CrackBerry? Miss Manners' advice

In social settings, how often should friends be checking their BlackBerrys? Fortune's Anne Fisher asked etiquette expert Judith Martin.

By Anne Fisher, FORTUNE senior writer

(Fortune) -- Dear Annie: I am a recent law-school graduate and, though I'm not yet working at a law firm, I have friends who are. I understand that things in international firms happen 24/7, 365 days a year, and I want to be as supportive of my friends' careers as I expect them to be of mine. My question is, to what degree in social settings, on a regular basis, should friends be checking their BlackBerrys, and at what point should I say something? What's rude and what's truly necessary? -Bored in BlackBerryLand

Dear B. in B.: I can certainly understand your frustration. It's hard not to feel a bit insulted when a friend - especially one you haven't seen for a while and would like to catch up with - can't seem to turn off his or her electronic devices long enough to have a conversation with you.


Of course, you could always come right out and say something like, "Gee, would you mind putting that thing away for 20 minutes?" But BlackBerrys - which some people find so irresistibly addictive that they've earned the nickname CrackBerrys - have become so respectable in certain high-powered (and high-powered wannabe) circles that your request will probably fall on deaf ears.

I was curious about what Judith Martin, etiquette expert, author, and syndicated "Miss Manners" columnist, would have to say to your question. So I asked her.

"Of course it's very rude to be doing business during a social outing," Martin says. "But you should have nothing but sympathy for people who have no time off. It's very sad to have no time off."

"And of course you can't socialize with people who have no time off," she adds. "It's as if you were hanging around their desk talking to them while they were trying to get their work done. So leave them alone until they have worked their way up in their careers to the point where they have some time they can call their own."

Readers, what do you think? How much patience need one cultivate in order to socialize with people whose minds are still back at the office - or should Bored in BlackBerryLand give up and find some new friends? Post your thoughts on the Ask Annie blog. Top of page