Some of the best moments and conversations in life happen over food and drinks.
- I was eating pasta primavera with my boyfriend in a local bistro at the age of 18 when I decided to ditch my 1st year of college and move to a ski town out west.
- I treated my mom to Burger King where I broke the news to her.
- A best friend (and future roommate) was made in Manhattan over whiskey and beer.
- The day after 9/11, I was invited to a Brooklyn restaurant and given free food where we sat in the communal comfort of each other.
- One of the best conversations of my life was in Italy with a stranger who asked to share my table at an outdoor café. He spoke no English and I, no Italian.
Food and community provide a reason to gather — a shared experience, a buffer for heavy conversations, an opportunity to drink in the moment.
Which is why I am having such an issue with the state of dining since the dawn of the iPhone. My meals with others have turned into segmented bits of convo cut off with “I just need to check this quick,” and half listening “mmmhmmms” while the foodstagrapher takes a pic of their perfectly-imperfect table setting.
Jackie O’ once said, “I want to live my life, not record it.”
I’m curious as to what she would have to say on the subject now. Essentially everyone with an iPhone has become the paparazzi for their own lifestyle magazine, which they share with the masses in exchange for ‘likes.’
Why? Here are some questions to think about before inviting your phone to dinner.
Are we sharing to say, “Look at what I’m doing?” What are we actually gaining from this experience? What is really lost as we step out of the moment and into the virtual world?
I will say it — people don’t really care all that much about latte art. If you were to stop taking pictures of your food it’s safe to say the world will move on…maybe with one less clichéd image; overly filtered, making life look ideal, while your fellow diner looks off into the distance feeling snubbed.
So if you’re game, here are 5 reasons to put your phone away while you break bread and get back into real life.
- The Cook. Someone (maybe yourself) worked hard to create something yummy for your tummy. Taking the time to photograph it is making it cold and soggy and it’s most likely not going to taste the way the chef intended.
- Wait Time. A busy NYC restaurateur who was receiving negative Yelp reviews about slow service checked surveillance videos from 2004 and 2014 to discover why. He found that the average time from start to finish in 2004 was 1 hour and 5 minutes while in 2014 it was 1 hour and 55 minutes. The reason? The interruption of the cell phone. Waiters were being sent away because the diners weren’t ready to order, photographing and passive time was spent not eating, but engaging with a 2D world. Not reason enough? It’s rude…. your waiter will probably spit in your dessert.
- Fast Food. Our fast paced lives have us gobbling down our meals without even tasting them. Add in the screens which pull us away mentally and the chance for any connection to the food is gone. Throw the phone in a car, purse, preferably not a pocket and try to connect to the senses of taste and smell. This form of mindful eating will make your food taste better, slim the waistline and even help for better digestion.
- Coffee Talk. Your fellow diner wants to talk to you. They may have something important to share or just miss your eyeballs. If text messages are arriving to your phone they are basically interruption bombs pulling you out of the moment and severing the connection. Each time you “come back” it takes a long while for people to get to the juicy good stuff of where they were before you answered a group text with “LOL”.
- Fried Brains & Cheese. Screens have entered almost every part of our lives; work, home, back of a cab, nightclubs, walking down the street. Which is why I find it so stunning that people are rushing to make everything 2D. I work on a computer all day…when I am off I try and keep the screens at bay because my brain and eyes need a break. Sacred spaces that I recommend people keep screen free, for sanity and health, are the bed, the toilet and the dinner table. We are an “always-on” culture. With the advent of instant gratification and always being accessible, people are beginning to fatigue from digital exhaustion.
There have been a slew of recent studies have shown that cellphones have made the average person more selfish, more narcissistic, more easily distracted, more impatient and more stressed. But with the bad comes the good and they’re here to stay. So it’s up to us to set the boundaries as to what we are willing to accept as the new normal. Heck…. 5 years ago we were all eating GMO’s and high fructose corn syrup.
Put the phone away and get back to real life. The change starts with you.