Eating Your Feed—Literally

Why our closest tech friends do not belong at the dinner table


Katie Mott

WHERE DOES YOUR PHONE FIT? As technology continues to dominate all aspects of our lives, the question of whether cell phone usage has a place at the dinner table or not remains more prevalent than ever. However, seeing that using cellphones during a meal decreases social connectivity and enjoyment, it is time for our technology to find a new home. “There is no place at a place setting for your phone… Phones should be off,” said Daniel Post Senning, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, to the Washington Post.

   Buzz, ding, beep, “Hey, look at this video I just found,” “Did you see Joe’s Instagram post?”, “I just need to send one more text…”—all in a 30 minute period we refer to as dinner time. 

   When the iPhone hit the market in 2007, family dinners began to evolve from time of conversation and connection to silence—that is if you define silence as no conversation and a phone notification every three seconds. 

   For several years, I thought my family was in the clear. My dad made a general rule about no phones at the dinner table, and we all followed suit. However, as technology continued to craft society’s world, the “no phones at the dinner table” rule began to crumble, slowly becoming a choice and not a requirement.

   I used to think nothing of it when I could see the illuminated glow of a phone underneath the table, but now it bothers me that we cannot have a conversation, but instead must rely on our phones to fill the silence for us. We need to solve this problem now before dinner time transforms into screen time.

   First of all, dinner is an important time of social connection during the day. With most individuals frequently following a busy schedule on a daily basis, dinner may be the only time of day in which they can speak face to face with family or friends. Consistent phone alerts can easily distract from a meaningful discussion.

   “The dinner table is the most important social ritual that we engage in with others. We should concentrate on that. Phones should be off,” said Daniel Post Senning, the fifth generation to write “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” as per the Washington Post.

   Moreover, not only is cell phone usage during a meal rude, but it also decreases the overall enjoyment for the diner. According to studies completed by Elizabeth Dunn and Ryan Dwyer, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada, technology use during meals leads to a “modest but noticeable decrease in diners’ enjoyment.” They found that the use of technology during a meal leads to increased distraction and minimal social engagement, decreasing one’s overall enjoyment of the meal.

   While the issue of phones dominating dinner tables across the world cannot be solved with a simple “no phones allowed” policy, here are some tips for staying tech-free during any meal:

  1. Leave your phone in a different room. The harder it is to reach, the more difficult it will be to use. 
  2. If your phone must be on you, consider placing it on silent to avoid the temptation to check notifications.
  3. Dislike the awkward silence of some family dinners? Come with something to say or a question to ask. Sharing one thing about your day could turn into an entire conversation.
  4. If you need to take your phone out during a meal with family or friends, ask first. This shows respect for who you are with.

While technology continues to further integrate itself into our lives, it does not have to dominate our meals—a time for eating and connection, not texting and checking your feed. After all, is that Instagram post that you are about to like more important than the smiling face sitting across from you?