How to avoid running afoul of iPad etiquette ... no really, how?

December 26, 2012 

Remember when the iPad was first announced, and all anybody could focus on was making jokes about its name and the fact that it kind of sounded like it would be some sort of digital sanitary napkin?

Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

Since the iPad hit shelves — and its competition sprinted to follow suit — the tablet has become a nearly ubiquitous part of everyday life.

After more than two and a half years of the iPad in stores, a tablet (not an iPad, lest I giggle myself to death) found its way into my possession, courtesy of a Christmas gift from my generous parents. Although dubious of the device during its initial release, it took all of a day for my tablet to become an extension of my left hand — an extension also strangely connected to a swiping right index finger, defying the entirety of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”

Now, though, I’m encountering a problem I’ve faced in the past with new technologies, like the laptop and the smartphone: I don’t know the etiquette of when/how to use it and when/how not. The tablet is a lot like a book, but instead of a book, it’s a computer. So is it OK to use it whenever/wherever I would use a book? Or will people think I’m being rude and playing Angry Birds and not just reading today’s newspaper? (For the record, I think it’s probably close to the latter, but, again, I am unsure of these things.)

Please. I’m looking for all the help I can get. Is tablet use acceptable …

… AS A CAMERA? I saw people taking pictures with their tablets at parades during the holiday season. I know there are camera fixtures on these things, but there are also cameras on most cellphones and, you know, cameras these days, so why must you use your tablet? I think it looks kind of silly — though I thought that about holding cellphones up at concerts instead of lighters, too, and that seems to have caught on.

… ON THE TOILET? This was in the commercial for “This is 40.” I laughed, although I don’t know whether I laughed because of “haha iPad on the toilet” or because “haha marriage jokes.” In the vein of magazines/newspapers in the bathroom, I am entirely serious when I say that I have no clue whether this is gross.

… AT THE SPORTS BAR? Tablets afford patrons to check Twitter, stats, injury updates and fantasy scores while watching games with the buds, which promotes well-informed discussion and discourse. Tablets also afford patrons to check Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and eBay, which promotes well-informed pretending-to-know-what-was-just-said “uh-huh”s.

… IN LINE AT THE STORE? So long as you continue to move forward slowly and put the tablet away once its your turn to check out, I have no problem with this. But lines make people so ornery, I’m thinking I might be better off pretending to not be reading the headlines on the tabloids.

… INSTEAD OF PLAYING THE PIANO? Give me the actual instrument any day … though you have to admit that Apple commercial is pretty persuasive.

These questions, all after one day of use; I’m sure there will be many more. If you have the etiquette answers, by all means let me know. And yes, I’m looking for more than an “uh-huh.”

Andy successfully avoided a toilet/swipe joke even though it was staring him in the face. Email him at

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