Is it rude to eat during a virtual wine tasting or video happy hour?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

My husband and I have been doing a lot of “virtual happy hours” since the coronavirus pandemic started. They’re a great way to stay in touch and share a glass of wine with people we miss. Recently, one couple on the other side of the screen started eating dinner in front of us. I think it was rude, but my husband says I’m overreacting. What do you say?

—Clara, San Francisco

Dear Clara,

I think we’re all trying to figure out the new rules in this new era of socializing.

Is it rude to eat while video chatting? Well, I wouldn’t just start eating in front of someone myself. But the virtual happy hour code of conduct hasn’t been established yet. Here’s my proposal: Let’s treat virtual meetings with the same social rules that we’d treat an in-person meeting.

That means being clear about the meeting’s expectations—not just the where and when of the meeting, but also the content. Tell your friends you want to get dressed up and open a bottle of something special, or be clear that you want to casually share snacks and a glass of wine together as you recount your week. If I plan on eating, I think I’d make that clear.

Whether or not food should be involved at a meeting seems like an important part of the socializing equation. Of course, these decisions will vary on your relationship with the person on the other side of the camera. Even in my most intimate and longest relationships, I think I’d still say something before chomping. “Hey, this glass of red is really calling for some cheese. Mind if I grab a nibble, or would you rather I wait?”

I know some people are having virtual potlucks and other meals, and if someone wants to invite me to a bubbly and potato chip meet-up, I’m in. If you must do something disruptive like take a bite, try to do so off camera, or just wait until afterward.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

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