To Tweet or Not to Tweet - When is it Ok?

Have you ever found yourself looking over your shoulder, checking and checking again to make sure that no one is watching you, before you, nonchalantly (or so you think) glance down  towards your hands, concealed beneath the table, and send out a Tweet or post to Facebook?

I hate to tell you this, but you’ve been caught! You’re not fooling anyone; you know that people are shooting your disapproving glares as you type your 140 characters, and still you keep doing it, over and over again. Who do you think you are?

In all honesty, you are just like a number of the other people who are or were in the room with you.

As someone whose job is tied directly to the use of Social Media I am well versed with the dilemmas of “proper etiquette” in this digital era.

For a long time etiquette was fairly black and white. There were certain manners we were all taught growing up; the biggest one was to be polite. While we all understand what it means to be polite, it is a fairly broad concept, one that may be left open to interpretation at times.

If you happen to search something like “etiquette in a digital era” on Google, you will likely uncover a long list of articles that suggest that the use of digital devices in public forums is rather impolite. It is rather staggering to me the number of articles that are effectively supporting a lack of digital engagement in the name of etiquette.

Etiquette is not as black and white as it once was. What is polite and what is not may now be subject to public opinion and varying circumstances.

In today’s world where most of us are connected to our iPhone, Blackberry, Android Device, iPad, Playbook or alternate mobile device, what use is acceptable by social standards?

Presumably it is still polite to turn off your ringer or audible notifications when entering a meeting, gathering or an event. It is also likely still polite to excuse yourself from your surroundings should you need to take a call or make a call.


Imagine you are at an event, a dinner, seated with 9 other individuals, in a room with hundreds of others, including people who are speaking. Is it polite for someone to pull out their smart device and begin typing away?

You’re at a gala reception, people are working the room, enjoying appetizers, drinks and conversation; is there a point at which it is okay to pull out your phone to tweet or check your feeds?

Is it worse to hide your hands and device beneath a table while sending a message, or to use your smart phone for all to see?


Some would argue that Tweeting in any of those situations, in any manner is poor etiquette. I have heard many say that they do not want people ‘playing’ with their smart phones during an event because they should be focused on the happenings of the evening; they should be actively listening to the speakers and focus should be dedicated to those immediately surrounding them. Some have even gone as far as to accuse people of being disengaged if caught tweeting from an event.

Some people fear the use of Social Media at their events, asking ‘what if something goes wrong and people talk about it?’ Due to that fear, some deem the use of Social Media in a public or social environment to be impolite.

What is the proper etiquette when it comes to Social Media?

There is a lot of information available regarding the proper etiquette of HOW to use Social Media, but very little on the etiquette of WHEN and WHERE to use Social Media, which may be because, no one has really figured out etiquette rules for Social Media that apply to all situations.

So what is one to do?

First, evaluate your environment. There may be clear indicators that tweeting may not only be welcomed, but encouraged; is there a live Twitter Stream, an event hashtag, or an event Twitter Handle? Is the room filled with individuals with Smart Phones in their hands?

Tweet, but don’t let it hamper your face-to-face interactions; common manners still apply. Pulling your phone or tablet out in the middle of a one-on-one conversation is poor form in any circumstance. If it is necessary wait for a break in the conversation, explain, ask politely if they mind and excuse yourself if it is necessary.

Tweeting from an event does not have to be taboo. It is not the inappropriate behaviour that some would make it out to be. The use of Social Media can increase engagement and establish greater attention amongst individuals; it can build community, stimulate thinking, generate additional support, spark awareness and much more.

In most situations there are far greater benefits to encouraging the use of Social Media than there are harms. While this is true, we still at times find ourselves battling our inner voice that is questioning the etiquette of it all.


  Sound off! 

Proper Etiquette of WHEN and WHERE to use Social Media is still being shaped, so have your say!


What should Social Media etiquette look like?

Is it still poor etiquette for someone to pull out their smart phone while at an event?

What types of events should Smart Phones stay hidden at?

At what type of event would it be poor manners to NOT tweet from?

Should we still be ashamed and cloak the use of our mobile devices while out in public?

When is it and when isn’t it okay to pull out our Smart Devices and share a tweet with the world? 



Good article and good questions. The answers are probably more gray than black or white. I think a lot of it depends on the age group. If it's a group of millennials, I think tweeting is more than acceptable.
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