Techtiquette: Is it OK to peek at your date's notifications?

mobile phone notification etiquette
When you're out to dinner on a date, and your date's phone lights up with a notification, are you allowed to peek?

Techtiquette answers your burning questions about the proper way to use technology in social situations.

Dear Hope,

When I'm out to dinner on a date, and her phone lights up with a notification, am I allowed to peek? Is it fair game because she left her phone face-up on the table? Or am I snooping?

There's always a temptation to look at a date's phone notifications. Is it a weather update or a text from another man?!

A smartphone is a deeply personal device, filled with private messages, financial information, emails and photos. If you're trying to find out if she's right for you -- phone notifications could give you some hints.

The problem is that notifications are in plain view -- you don't even need to do anything sketchy to see them.

If she didn't want to risk you seeing the notifications, there's a simple solution for that: just put the phone away. But since we're talking about someone who chose to leave her phone on the table -- a discussion for another column -- her expectation of privacy is clearly diminished.

Still, that doesn't make it right. Even a glance can be rude, especially if she didn't look at or notice the alert.

If you're curious, don't be passive about it. Ask directly if you want to know something instead of stealing information on your own. Forcing yourself to verbalize what you want will make you think twice about how important the request actually is.

But how harmful can a silly gander be?

App icons themselves provide enough context to fuel or kill further interest almost instantly. A stock update? Pass. An iMessage notification? Hmmm... And if it's not immediately clear what the alert is for, you may find yourself lingering for a few milliseconds more.

In the long run, however, developing a habit of looking and reading will inevitably lead to you seeing something you shouldn't.

Ultimately, whether or not you look at your date's phone is a reflection of the relationship you have with that person. If you want a relationship built upon respect and trust, then reading notifications is probably not a great idea.

There's no need to immediately look away when you hear your date's phone chime. A glance is acceptable -- only if it lasts as long as a blink. Anything more is snooping.

Got a burning tech etiquette question? Email Hope King at

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