Editor's note: The following question is from a Dear Prudence online chat and includes a reader response.
Q: I recently went on vacation to Italy with two girlfriends from college. We had a great time and ate lots of pasta and gelato, but one thing really put a damper on my enjoyment: smartphones. I completely understand the need to call and check in with loved ones — I did it myself — and hey, I can even get on board with a quick Facebook update here and there. But my experience with these ladies was mind-boggling. Every time we went to a restaurant, they would immediately ask about Wi-Fi and then disappear for the rest of the meal. One would occasionally look up and say, "Sorry, I know I'm being anti-social," but then she would keep on doing whatever she was doing behind her screen. One of them forgot her phone charger and it's the only reason I got to interact with her after the first day (when she had depleted her phone's charge by uploading pictures to Facebook). The kicker was our last night, when we went out to a popular spot for drinks: Cute Italian men approached us left and right while one girl spent the entire night swiping on Tinder and complaining about her lack of a boyfriend. I don't have a Facebook (or any site), so I'm wary of becoming "that friend" who just as obnoxiously pooh-poohs social networking, but enough is enough! Should I just silently doodle on my napkin (what I ended up doing in Italy) the next time this sort of thing happens?
A: I want to see this movie. A young Marcello Mastroianni comes sauntering to a table of young American women, and the one complaining most about not having a guy doesn't even make eye contact with Marcello because her nose is buried in her dating app.
What you experienced is a question beyond etiquette. There is no doubt the world behind the touch screen has become more vivid and compelling to millions of people than anything happening in their lives. But if they looked up and told you what kept them so intent upon the screen, they'd have to admit it was mostly a bunch of banal texts, games and useless news alerts. It's one thing to zone out with your phone on the subway. It's another to miss Italy because you're playing Flappy Bird.
The next time you're out to dinner with your gang and this happens, speak up. Say you understand how hard it is to break away from the phone because it's hard for you, too. But you'd like to institute a no-phone rule when you're socializing. That means they're in your purses and off. If it turns out your friends would rather socialize in the virtual world while they're with you, it's time to get a new group of friends.
Reader responds: I have the following rule with some of my friends when we go out for dinner or drinks: the first one to start playing with their phone, picks up the drink tab for everyone! The phones are sure to stay hidden.
Prudence: Love it! And I admire that you can get buy-in from the addicted.