<quote>All circumstance under which, I'd respectfully suggest, the world will not end if you take a moment to remove yourself from the social occasion and receive/make/respond to your call in seclusion.<quote>
The question is then, which is ruder--to disturb others by leaving or to distress them by texting in their presence? I'd assume that texting causes less disruption than having to excuse onesself through a crowd, particularly since leaving means that many people will be disturbed, while texting will physically inconvenience no one.
It is better manners to do the polite thing, if that disturbs more people?
One of the advantages of texting is that it allows one to decide on the spot which conversation is more important (something which call waiting, for example, makes difficult). If I receive a text, I can check whom it's from quickly, and if it's from someone like the babysitter I can read it almost as quickly. If it's urgent it can be dealt with on the spot. I see that as no different than someone coming up and interrupting a conversation with a message, which I can then decide to respond to or wait till later. Once I had my brother summoned out of a theatre because a family member was dying. Now I could text instead.
<quote>Now you've raised a very interesting question in practical etiquette -- do manners exist as a mechanism to gain social approval, or do they exist as an expression of intrinsic regard for others.<quote>
Good question. I think that they exist as an expression of intrinsic regard for others, but there needs to be a social consensus on what is a meaningful expression of that regard. As the technology changes this quickly, consensus on what is meaningful is hard to reach.
On Oct 7, 2007, I was disturbed to find that quite a few people attending Sunday morning Mass at my parish had received and read texts during Mass regarding an event in Cardiff. On the other hand, the texting itself hadn't disturbed me at the time--I'd had no idea it was going on. Was it poor manners to text if no one noticed? Interestingly, few of the people who'd received the texts passed the devastating information on until the end of the service--they considered whispering in church to be poorer manners than receiving texts.
It will be interesting to see what is considered polite or rude 10 years from now.
I can think of lots of legitimate reasons to text at odd times such as during a concert. Communicating with a babysitter, replying to a query from one's partner (such as where the teenager is so they can be picked up), saying hello/goodbye to family or friends about to board a plane and be offline for a few hours, or responding to any number of minor emergencies, domestic or otherwise.
Then again, there is also the less legitimate reason of boredom. It's not very polite to text for non-essential reasons but in a large crowd the performers aren't likely to notice. Is it anyone else's business? IF the texting is silent and discreet can others legitimately claim that it's ruining their experience?