What’s UP with the Smartphone Use at the Table?

March 18, 2016

What’s UP with the Smartphone Use at the Table?


I’m a fan of technology, and my job is partly centered around the use of technology to connect people.

But I am also increasingly aware of the pervasive presence of technology, sometimes in places and at times where it shouldn’t have a seat at the table.  Like – at the table, literally.

I was with my son at a “fast-casual” eatery one recent Saturday and noticed while we were waiting for our food and chatting that at almost every other table with multiple patrons, those multiple patrons were focused on multiple cell phones rather than each other.

These aren’t the folks we saw, but the vibe is exactly the same.

It was a little scary.

richardmatheson_fullsize_story1I felt for a minute like I was in one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where the protagonist finds himself in an unfathomable and bizarre situation and is the only one who notices anything is wrong.  (Remember the episode with William Shatner where he saw the gremlin and no one else did?  Shudder.  It’s called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet and is a classic.)

The phone fascination and people-ignoring was definitely not limited to the younger set.  The generational demographic in that restaurant was very diverse that Saturday noon.  The oldest person staring at the tiny screen was probably in his 70s, the youngest, about 10.  There were couples, a multi-generational family (mom/teenage son/grandma) and several groups that might’ve been co-workers or friends.  I was reminded of an NPR story I heard a couple of years ago in which one kid called his dad’s smart phone a “stupid phone”; the piece was called For the Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone.

Photo by Katherine Streeter for NPR; click here to read the story

What’s up with this?  Doesn’t anyone believe in fellowship over a meal any more? Doesn’t anyone appreciate the value of being with others and being in the moment with them? Is the smartphone really more interesting than our companion(s)?

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