Think back to the last time you were out to dinner, having drinks at a bar, taking transportation, or doing pretty much anything in public. How many people did you see face-down on their phone? Chances are, most people — if not all. It’s true that with the advent of technology and introduction to social media, society has become totally saturated in the social sphere of the digital age. It’s practically impossible to do anything without having your phone with you. While it’s no doubt nice to be able to have constant communication, it’s causing a serious rift in intrapersonal relationships — you know, the kind you have face to face — so much so that it’s started a whole new movement known as the no-phone brunch.
This is the kind of brunch where you go out with friends and no one can use their phone during the entire meal. Everyone puts them away or stacks them all on the table, and the first person to reach for theirs, has to pay the bill. Gasp! Imagine that! More and more folks are catching on as a means to reconnect on a face-to-face basis rather than screen-to-screen. “Before cell phones, texting, and social media, this is what we fondly called ‘brunch’ — people getting together and actually paying attention to their tablemates,” says Jodi R.R. Smith, owner of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, in Marblehead, Mass. “Even with the advent of technology, polite people know to give their full attention to those they are with…not a handheld screen.”
While technology is great, Smith points out that it’s only a tool, one that can be used to enhance or diminish an interaction. “One of the greatest gifts we can give another human being is our full attention, whether you call it mindfulness, simply being polite or no-phone brunch, it all amounts to being present in the moment,” she says.
And as it turns out, there are some serious benefits to putting down your phone — or even stowing it away — while out with friends, family, colleagues or your significant other. One is that it gives us the chance to connect as humans, the old evolutionary way. “Real connectedness, however, doesn’t happen when checking social media updates or sports scores. It only really happens when we are face to face conversing with others,” says Rachel Wagner, licensed corporate etiquette consultant. “We can’t show real happiness, empathy or concern with emojis and likes, we can only express it face-to-face with our words, laughter, and body language, including eye contact, nodding gently to show we’re listening or that we understand, and even an arm around the shoulder to show we care.”
Interacting face-to-face also gives us a much-needed break from the screen, which we look at an estimated 10 hours a day, according to a recent Nielsen Company report. Not only do most of us stare at screens while at work, but we also check our phones throughout the day, when we’re in the bathroom, waiting for something like a coffee, commuting to work, etc. “FOMO often wins out in those moments, but it creates a constant need for stimulation, which then carries into our meals,” says Andrew Selepak, PhD, professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida and director of the graduate program in social media.
Dr. Selepak also points out that a phone break has mood-boosting benefits, since, let’s be honest, there are a lot of things we see online and on social media that upset us. “While it may be cool to be the first one to know what a celebrity or politician said and did and bring it up during the meal, it will most likely only lead to upsetting conversation, not engaging conversations with those we made plans to go out with to hear how their lives are going and tell them about ours,” he says. “Rather than having a conversation about politics because you read a tweet or got a push notification from a news app, talk about the things that will make you happy, like a vacation.”
Bottom line: Put away your phone every once in a while! “First, remember that most technology and social apps were designed to activate the pleasure center of your brain…just like gambling,” says Smith. “Do not allow yourself to be manipulated!” The easiest way to do this? Turn off your phone — or at least put it on vibrate, perhaps some place where you can’t even feel it. Not only will it help boost your social skills, but it may even improve your overall enjoyment in life, which is worth it in our opinion!