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Screenshots of conversations, texting at the table, and more: etiquette tips in the digital age

Respect for those around you never goes out of style. But as the way we communicate has evolved, so have some of the social guidelines surrounding it.

MINNEAPOLIS — Put your napkin in your lap. Say thank you when someone pays you a compliment. Be punctual. These are some rules of etiquette that have remained for a century. But as we've entered the Digital Age, the guidelines of social courtesy have evolved to include a lot more, including best practices with cell phones and social media. Elaine Swann, a national etiquette expert and founder of The Swann School of Protocol, makes sure to keep up-to-date.

"I watch the market, and I watch trends. And I do research and study and surveys and so forth to see what really works for people for today," she said.

Swann offers the following tips when it comes to texting, information sharing and the internet:

When you're dining with others, don't bring your phone out unless it's for a reason that loops in everyone.

"We should not be on our phones connected with someone else on the other end, whether it’s connected with someone through social media or email," Swann said. "But if you’re looking at your phone and you’re trying to find movie times, or maybe trying to connect with someone else in your party that you’re waiting on and everyone knows that’s why you’re on your phone, then that’s great."

She says it's also okay to pull out your phone to share a photo with the person or people you are dining with, but put it away after. 

"Nothing belongs on the table except for food, so when you put that phone away, put it in your bag, your pocket, or on your lap, underneath your napkin."

Keep your texts to daytime and early evening hours. Just because someone can turn their notifications off, doesn't mean they do.

"In my opinion, it's the responsibility of the sender to curb their behavior and avoid sending emails, text messages, any sort of notes or updates during odd hours of the night. They might have relatives – sick parents or children – that causes them to have to keep those notifications on."

Responding to a thoughtful or important message with "K" isn't polite.

"Try to match the energy of the sender," Swann said. "So if a sender sends you a long-form message, it doesn't mean that yours needs to be just as long, but at least use a complete and full sentence response. So this way you're at least matching their energy and feel somewhat heard."

Always get permission before you share a screenshot of a text conversation.

"We feel as though – when we're posting something – we're just connecting with one person. But really, in essence – we're sharing that information with the world," Swann said.

If someone hands you their phone to look at a photo, don't start swiping through the gallery.

"Because you never know what's on the other side of that swipe. So when someone hands you their phone, look at that one thing, mind your business, and just keep looking at whatever they've shared with you."

Don't bombard someone with messages or videos. And if someone is doing it to you, it's okay to tell them to ease up on it.

"It's like dropping off something at your front door constantly and you don't want it," Swann said. "It's absolutely acceptable to say you know, I get it, it's funny, but can you hold up a little on sharing so much because it's hard for me to keep up with it. Tell them whatever your reason is.

"We give people so much freedom when it comes to the internet and things online, but we need to use those same core values of respect, honesty and consideration in every area of our lives."

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