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Your mom was right this whole time

Tim Nelson
March 01, 2018

The dinner table used to be a place where families and friends gathered together for good food and scintillating conversation, but the ubiquity of the smartphone has transformed this sacred space into just another opportunity to scroll through Instagram. And though it’s easy to roll your eyes at those who’d ask you to put your phone away, new science shows phones have a real, negative impact on how we dine.

According to recent research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, people who spent time on their phones during a meal reported less satisfaction with the overall experience. A team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia asked 304 people to visit a cafe with friends or family, instructing some to leave their phones on the table while others kept theirs out of sight. The phone group answered a survey texted to them during the meal, while their phoneless peers answered the same questions on paper. Those who had access to their phones reported feeling more distracted and were less likely to enjoy an otherwise perfectly fine meal.

Despite abundant access to dank memes, those with their phones also reported feeling more bored during the meal. That was a finding that surprised University of BC PhD student and study lead author Ryan Dwyer. “We had predicted that people would be less bored when they had access to their smartphones, because they could entertain themselves if there was a lull in the conversation,” he told Science Daily. “We enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away."

This is far from the first research to confirm that great dinners and DM’ing don’t mix. A University of Essex study from 2012 showed that the mere presence of a phone on a table is enough to put a damper on conversations and weaken the ties between people sharing a meal. “Mobile [phones] can have negative effects on closeness, connection, and conversation quality," lead researcher Andrew Przybylski told The Telegraph. “They divert attention away from a presently occurring interpersonal experience to focus on a multitude of other concerns and interests."

With a survey of 2,000 Americans showing that roughly 29 percent of us have our phones with us at every meal, that’s a recipe for a lot of bored, lonely, and isolated eaters. So while there’s nothing wrong with snapping a quick photo of your brunch, wait until after settling the check to post it on Instagram if you’re hungry for a more meaningful and memorable dining experience.

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