So, did we manage to come up with such a rule? Yes! It's simple, too. The idea, which I'll call the Bathroom Rule, came from a reader named Marie LaFerriere, and it was seconded by many others. Here's my concise version of LaFerriere's rule:
If you're in a situation where you'd excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, you should also excuse yourself before reaching for your phone. Otherwise, go ahead without asking. Either way, don't play with your phone longer than you'd stay in the bathroom.
What I like about this rule is that it recognizes both the social costs and benefits of our digital devices. Looking at your phone, like going to the bathroom, is sometimes unavoidable: We've all got to do it sometime, and depending on life circumstances, some of us need to do it a lot more than others. But the rule also recognizes that the phone, like going to the bathroom, pulls you away from others people. If you're looking at a screen, you're not paying attention to me.
--Farhad Manjoo, Slate, on making texting less rude