It is (Sort of) Okay to Use Your Phone at the Dinner Table

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As annoying as it may be, or look to others, we’ve probably all been guilty of having our phones at the dinner table. It can also be argued that a person across from you during one of these instances couldn’t help but be feel slighted by the overwhelming devotion you show your device.

A new survey constructed by the University of Michigan was designed to determine how people feel about phone-at-the-table etiquette.

Results showed that people don’t generally mind phone usage at the dinner table, depending on what that usage is and who else is at the table. It was also discovered that individuals are less bothered by people texting or answering a phone call during dinner, than toying around with social media.

Researchers theorized that texting and answering calls are likely more acceptable because they are often brief activities. But, those who are on social media are likely going to be engaged in that atmosphere for a longer period of time.

“These results are interesting because they challenge the idea that using your phone during a shared meal is categorically inappropriate. What we find is that attitudes are much more nuanced than that,” explained University of Michigan doctoral student at the University of Michigan. “A quick text or even phone call with your boss might be okay. Watching someone across the table thumb through their Facebook feed, that’s different.”

Another determination made was that tolerance for at-the-table phone activity relates to age. The older you are, the less accepting you are of someone playing with a phone at the table.

Considering how much can be done on a phone nowadays, many of us can get a little twitchy if not able to use our favourite little tech baby at will. What should be understood, however, is that most things in life are (fortunately) not urgent enough to require you being chained to a phone 24/7. Try leaving it in another room when having a meal and work on the connection that really matters – the person sitting across from you.

-Adam Grant

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