Photo: Becca Talpert
Smartphones and social media have given way to a lot of less-than-polite behavior, including but not limited to: scrolling Instagram while someone else is talking, the sending of unsolicited dick pics, and my personal favorite, Tindering while already on a Tinder date. But this latest one is a little more subtle. In fact, you’ve probably done it before but didn’t know what exactly to call it. Well, my friends, welcome to the era of the sidebar.
According to Metro, which first alerted us to the trend, ‘sidebarring’ is the act of texting another person while you’re both hanging out with the same larger group of people. “You send them a message bitching about the other people in the room, or the situation, or the food,” writes Metro’s Ellen Scott. “They reply. You message back. You’re now casually slamming people while you’re sitting in the same room as them, able to get away with being a little snake because it’s all done silently, over text.”
Yeah, so, that’s some next-level mean girl behavior, to be sure. But it’s also very tempting to engage in, and according to a study conducted by Facebook, 71 percent of us are guilty of doing so. In fact, people around the world and of varying ages do it on the regular, though millennials and teens are the most likely age groups to sidebar, at 82 and 79 percent, respectively. If that’s not enough to make you paranoid when your friend keeps glancing at her phone during the pregame tonight, I’m not sure what is.
There is a silver lining, though. According to the Facebook study, sidebar conversations, while exclusive to others, serve to strengthen the bond between participants. Which if you’ve ever texted your BFF to complain about how annoying your friend’s new boyfriend’s voice is while he’s sitting right there, you can probably attest is true.
Regardless of your feelings on the sidebar phenomenon, pretty much everybody knows what it is now, so it may be time to find a new smack-talking mechanism. May I suggest a good old fashioned eye-roll? Or perhaps just a nice hushed-tones bathroom gripe sesh? I’m sure we’ll figure something out.