A few weeks ago I stumbled on a compilation of photos that grabbed my attention. All of the photos had a distinct theme of people enjoying a meal together. Most of the photos were taken at restaurants. A scattered few were of couples enjoying lunch on a park bench or a picnic in some remote area. I found this to be peculiar until I read the short article accompanying the photos. In all of its creative entirety, this work of art represented the decline of face to face conversation. What’s it being replaced with? Smartphones and other tech devices.
Like with any well written article or unique presentation of the obvious, it stirs up a trail of thoughts and generates discussion. That’s exactly what happened. Myself included. I spiraled backwards in time and reflected on the last few times I ventured out to enjoy a meal at a favorite local eatery or two. I observed couples deeply engaged with their Smartphones and iPads. Not once did they look at each other. A waitress was asked to come back because the seated patron had to finish composing an email. A young child had a meltdown because the WiFi wasn’t up to his speed. A boisterous customer was taking photos of his half eaten meal and plastering his displeasure with the food on Facebook.
There’s no arguing that technology has made a monumental impact on our daily life and how we function from one hour to the next. I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to digital conveniences. I shop and make purchases at 2 in the morning and have been known to rant my latest stress via text while stuck in traffic. The big question, and one that has been tackled by many, is where do we draw the line? Surveys dating back to 2013 have concluded that it all depends on which generation you’re from.
One thing has remained rather prominent; we’ve gotten to the point where modern technology has redefined how we socialize face to face. We have transformed into a society where our eyes are glued to our tech devices. We’re not giving mind to what’s in front of us. The virtual world has our immediate and full attention. The gap between ordering food and diving into our scrumptious fare is no longer considered a window of opportunity to engage in conversation and catch up on the latest happenings. We’re filling that void with texting, reading emails, updating Facebook statuses, tweeting our whereabouts, and posting real time photos on Instagram. The next time you’re dining out, take a look around.
If you don’t think this has become a noticeable problem, it has. In 2014, Huffington Post featured an article about How Restaurants Are Getting People To Put Away Their Phones. Restaurants, including Sneaky’s Chicken in Sioux City, Iowa offers a 10% discount if guests put their phones in a special box during their meal. Other restaurants have followed suit with bans on cell phones, restrictions on taking photos and other rules to regulate the usage of devices. With every effort towards conquering the cell phone scourge, there’s backlash. Across the board, the reviews are mixed.
I doubt we’ll ever see the day when Smartphones and other devices are completely banned from restaurants. It makes me wonder how we all survived dining out in the 70’s and 80’s. Back then, we had to talk to each other. Face to face. This is one habit I choose to white knuckle regardless of how far the digital world stretches. My phone stays in the car. I secretly admire the restaurants who don’t offer free WiFi because of their profound belief that we should be engaging in face to face conversation. If that makes me old-fashioned, I’ll proudly sport that label.
Where do YOU draw the line?