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Lauren M.G. Burt: When you should (and should not) use your phone

Digital decorum is increasingly important, especially when it comes to smartphones.

Members of the millennial generation often are labeled as digital natives, rarely without a smartphone or digital device. Mobile technology gives us power and freedom, but it can also impede our ability to create real connections. And it can negatively impact our relationships and image.

Embrace technology tact and be a sensible consumer with the following ideas:

Life — and communicating — is all about timing. Unless you know someone's schedule, text, call or email within normal business hours. During the weekend, no calls or texts before 10 a.m. unless it's an emergency. When responding to digital communications, aim to be as prompt as possible. But if you're driving or in an interview, leave the phone alone.

Have dinner with your dining companions, not your phone. The phone should never be present unless you need it for an emergency. If so, tell your dining guests that you may need to check your phone for that very purpose. Otherwise, put it away. Being on the phone at the table is disrespectful to the people you are with. In the dating world, a first date will probably be the last date if you spend more time with your phone than your date.

While using social media, if you're second-guessing posting that photo from a night out or if you should be sharing someone else's news — like a job or engagement — don't. Refrain from negative comments or complaining publicly. Over-sharing remains an issue for many on social media. It can result in ruining relationships, careers and future opportunities. When in doubt, don't. You'll be thankful later.

Monitor voice volume and personal space when using your phone in public. Respect quiet places like offices and libraries. If a conversation is personal or confidential in nature, save it for the appropriate time and place.

Be courteous and stay off the phone when speaking with others while ordering coffee, making a purchase or ordering food.

Crucial conversations should always happen face-to-face or at the very least, over the phone. Quitting a job or conducting a breakup via text message is never, ever acceptable. And if you beg to differ, you should be banned from your iPhone for life.

Always think when using your phone. And think about putting it away. With packed schedules, constant messages and 24/7 news cycles, we are "on" all the time, which translates to being on our phones all the time.

However, if we don't take a minute to put away the phone while on a walk or enjoying dinner with friends, we will miss out on the very life everyone is capturing on Instagram and posting on Facebook. Make the practice of being present more important than checking your phone.