Smartphone fact-checking is a conversational irritant

Dear Abby: How should I respond to someone who keeps her smartphone on and “fact-checks” anything that is mentioned in a group conversation? She’s my brother’s girlfriend, “Marla,” and she’s not a teenager. She’s in her late 40s. I consider it rude. She invariably interjects a comment to confirm or dispute whatever has been said by saying, “Well, according to …”

I admit I don’t care for Marla for various reasons. However, she is perfect for my brother. To put it bluntly, I don’t trust either of them. I try to limit contact with them because I feel so strongly. Am I right, or am I overreacting?

Avoiding Contact

Dear Avoiding Contact: Whether what Marla is doing is rude would depend upon why she feels compelled to fact-check during a conversation. If she does it as a form of one-upmanship, it’s rude. If that’s not the reason, she may do it out of insecurity or a desire to participate in the conversation.

That said, because you don’t trust your brother or his lady friend, then it is only logical that you would avoid them as much as possible.

Dear Abby: My mother is almost 80, and I am trying to figure out activities she can do at home. Her health is not great because she has had several strokes over the past few years and has limited mobility.

Last year, I gave her some simple coloring books and crayons, and she did enjoy that, but she has told me she is kind of tired of coloring. She has adamantly insisted she doesn’t want crosswords or word search books. Do you have any suggestions?

All Thought Out

In California

Dear All Thought Out: Yes, I do. It is very important for your mother’s mental health that she exercise as many functions of her brain as possible. She should not be encouraged to spend all of her time at home. A senior center can help to give her structure and physical and mental stimulation. In her generation, connection with peers is important because it provides debate and socialization.

As to what she should be doing at home besides filling in the pages of coloring books, consider activities she did in the past such as knitting, chess, and watching sports or soap operas if she enjoys them.

Dear Abby: With all of the racial tensions going on, and an attack on the local police force, there doesn’t seem to be much escape. My husband thinks that watching the news is my “duty,” and I have been doing it to the point of having anxiety attacks. Is it our duty to surround ourselves with the negative so much that we forget the fun part of life?

News Overload

In Texas

Dear News Overload: If the news is having a negative effect on your health, you need to ration it or take a short break. Rather than inform, I’m sad to say, the television news has degenerated into the equivalent of a series of brutal spectator sports events. If you would rather not submerge yourself in the blood and tears, you have my permission not to watch. Instead, make sure to schedule activities that bring you pleasure and joy for balance — i.e. ones that involve music, exercise, friends or the outdoors.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.