When Is it OK to Talk to Your Phone? An Etiquette Guide to Mobile Voice RecognitionS

Siri will mean a lot of us are talking on our phones, to our phones; a nation of Kirks, barking into communicators. So unless we lay down some ground rules, things are going to get very annoying, very quickly.

Can I use Siri on the plane, the train, or other forms of mass transit?
No.

Can I bark orders to my phone during a meeting? Like, to send a company-wide email or set a meeting reminder, or something?
Only if you are leading the meeting. It will make you look authoritative, and alpha. It says that you obviously don't give a damn about how annoying it is to others in the room. And that's power.

That is, if it works.

If you end up having to repeat yourself, or if Siri doesn't get what you're saying, you're just going to look like a buffoon. So try it in private before you pull your power-play.

And if you're an underling? Keep it in your pocket, Junior.

Is it okay to ask my phone questions during sex?
I'm sorry. During sex? About what?

New positions, maybe? I don't know. It just seems sort of hot. It's kind of like having a three way with a robot. So can I talk to Siri during sex?
Yeah. So, do what you've got to do. I'm not going to judge. Your partner might.

Can I ask my phone for directions while I'm walking down the street?
Yes, but with a caveat. You should really stop walking first, maybe duck into a doorway or grab a seat on a bench. For one, it's sort of hazardous to be moving alongside the street without paying full attention to your surroundings. Also, people who walk around talking to themselves tend to either be crazy or pompous jerks. You don't want people to think you're either of those things.

I mean, have you seen the Siri video? You know the guy running along the Embarcadero, ordering his phone to do stuff from him while he jogs? Don't be that guy. Everybody thinks that guy is a self-important jackass.

Can I talk to my phone in the movies?
What? How could you even possibly think that was okay? That is not okay. It's less okay than during sex, even. At least during sex you'll only be bothering one other person. Keep your damn mouth shut in the theater.

But what if, like, some actor comes on and I can't place his name, can't I say "Siri, what other movies has the star of Drive been in?"
No. No, no, no. Dude, shut up.

Can I talk at Siri on the toilet?
Sure! Look, it's really gross and gauche to talk to another human while you're on the can. (I know you think nobody can tell, but we can tell. We can always tell.) But Siri is a honey badger in this regard; it just doesn't care. You could even ask Siri for a restaurant recommendation mid-poop and Siri won't find it at all weird or awkward.

But be warned: if you do this in a public bathroom, other people will think you are weird.

Using Siri to find a toilet during an emergency bathroom situation, however, is always completely acceptable.

Can I ask Siri questions at the table?
I get it. You want to know what the fuck amaranth is before you order it. Me too. And I never want to ask the waiter because I don't want to look like a rube. And because I'm a dude. So, look, I feel you. It's hard being an ignorant dude at a restaurant! I know!

But don't do this. Don't talk to your phone at the table. This is why Larry and Sergei made Google. Use the appropriate tool at the appropriate time.

Can I use Siri in the car?
By all means! This is where Siri really shines. In the car, you shouldn't be using your eyes and hands to do anything other than drive. But if there are other people in the car with you, respect them. If it's a task they can do on their phones, let them.

And really, that's the bottom line. When you are having a conversation with your personal assistant robot, you are excluding all the human beings around you. And that's just sort of rude. Talk to Siri when you are alone. Use your keyboard around other people. The other people will be glad you did. And Siri? Siri doesn't give a fuck.


User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Friday.

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Original photo of NY Subway by Mercurialn.