For me, a dinner out at restaurant typically includes good friends, delicious food, lively conversation, and copious amounts of wine. However, even though my friends and I make the time in our busy schedules to spend a few hours together catching up and enjoying each others’ company, lately, that just never seems to be enough. It’s almost as though we don’t know how to enjoy our meal these days unless we also broadcast where we are, who we’re with, what we’re eating, and the hilarious (or so we think: thanks wine!) things we’re saying to the entire Internet.
No, it’s never just a table for four anymore. We sit down and before we’ve even put our napkins in our laps or ordered our cocktails, out come our phones which we nestle somewhere between our water glass and the dinner knife, face up lest we miss any “urgent” notifications. In seconds, our cozy dinner includes Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Path, Foodspotting, etc. and instead of an intimate conversation between four, we’ve collectively invited thousands of strangers to the table.
I fully admit I am one of the worst offenders. And even worse, I admit that a large part of me uses social media as a way to brag. (I hate myself right now.) I no longer just enjoy the fact that I’m relaxing on the beach or snowboarding in powder on a Tuesday when everyone else is at work; I have to check-in to those locations on Foursquare, attach a picture of my feet in the sand or my face on the chairlift, and then send it to Twitter which then puts it on Facebook and while I’m at it, I might as well update Path too. I mean, what’s the point of living a privileged life if everyone else doesn’t know about it?
The sad part of this, of course, is that instead of using dinners and ski trips and days by the ocean as a way to disconnect, I’m doing the exact opposite. Instead of being present and enjoying where I am, I’m busy making sure everyone else knows just how much fun I’m having. I’m looking at the waves as they crash on the sand, yes, but through the camera on my iPhone.
Certainly, this is a bit of an exaggeration as I can snap a photo and tweet it in under 30 seconds, but I think there’s still a point to be made. Growing up, we did not answer the telephone during dinner. We let the answering machine pick it up because nothing was more important than the meal we were “enjoying” together. (Sorry, but if you’ve ever had dinner with my family, you know the quotes are necessary. I don’t even want to talk about the time my mom put us all on her broccoli soup diet.) Even now, when almost every single person carries a phone on his person, I don’t know many people who would have the audacity to interrupt a meal by taking a call. That is at least the one thing that is still frowned upon by most of us.
But very few of us apply that common courtesy toward all the rest of it: texting, social media, email etc. Because we can do that quietly, we assume it’s OK to do at all. Have you ever spent a meal with someone who’s on her phone the entire time? I recently did and all I could think was: I had the courtesy to sit with my back to the 49ers’ special that’s showing on the TV behind me so that I wouldn’t stare at it the entire time; the LEAST you could do is pretend like I’m more important than your Twitter friends.
Alas, most of us apparently don’t have the willpower to disconnect just because it’s often the polite and rewarding thing to do. Rather, it’s come to this: restaurants offering patrons 5% off of their tab just for checking their phones at the door.
Well, one restaurant, at least. Eva, located in L.A., is giving diners a 5% discount on their bill for agreeing not to use their phones during their meal. Of course, because we can’t be trusted to do things like this on the honor system (rightly so because I, for one, know it would be very hard for me to sneak into the bathroom and use Google if there were a factual debate at dinner), people have to physically leave their phones with the hostess.
Mark Gold, the owner of Eva, says, "It's about two people sitting together and just connecting, without the distraction of a phone, and we're trying to create an ambience where you come in and really enjoy the experience and the food and the company."
And hey, if it means people have to be bribed to do so, I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world.
Not many restaurants offer a “phone-free” discount, however, so next time you’re out to dinner and fed up with the fact that everyone’s playing on her phone, do what my friends and I do when we realize an intervention is necessary:
Ask everyone to stack her phone -- face down -- in the middle of the table. If someone grabs her phone before the check comes? Well that lucky sucker gets stuck with the bill.
PS: I share this video as an example of what you might miss if you're too busy staring at your phone. Also: SOMEONE ATE THE CALAMARI after this and I basically had a nervous breakdown. Lastly, my friends and I are clearly insane.
Follow @daisy on Twitter even though she’s really working on not drinking and tweeting. Which means she's basically not tweeting at all.