Phones at the Dinner Table Mean a Less Enjoyable Time For All

There is no doubt the internet is a marvelous invention, referred to by some as the “information superhighway.” To quote the philosopher James Eugene Carrey from the 90s classic movie The Cable Guy, “You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There’s no end to the possibilities!”

Being engrossed by all the inter-webs have to offer is not inherently a bad thing, but at the dinner table… it’s a different story. New research is exploring what many of us have experienced at dinner: the dejected feeling when someone’s smartphone seems to be more important to them than the company at the table.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia followed 300 participants who were given one of two rules: keep your phone at the table during mealtime or put it away. After dinner, everyone was given a survey asking them about their experiences & enjoyment during meal time—all unaware that their smartphone engagement was being observed. Their findings showed that, despite their predictions that people would be less bored if they were entertaining themselves by scrolling during conversation lulls, those who were on their phones reported feeling more bored than those who had tucked their phones far away.

“As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected,” Ryan Dwyer, lead author of the study and PhD student in the department of psychology, told Science Daily. “When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about—apart from offending them—we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away.”

Last week, another study explored how the suspicion that people who engage with social tend to be more isolated is being debunked (it turns out, they experience just as much physical social interaction as anyone else). Combined with these findings, it appears that being digitally connected overall may not be super-problematic, but when it creeps into the time we spend in-person with our loved ones, it can diminish our happiness & enjoyment.

Elizabeth Dunn, the senior author of another study that confirms the trend of people enjoying face-to-face interactions less when they’re also staring into their phones, said, “This study tells us that, if you really need your phone, it’s not going to kill you to use it. But there is a real and detectable benefit from putting your phone away when you’re spending time with friends and family.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Val P
Val P2 months ago


Marie W
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Thank you for sharing.

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No W
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Tania N
Tania N11 months ago

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Ramesh B11 months ago