When you dine with friends, are you guilty of keeping your phone out on the table? A friend of mine was complaining about going to dinner recently with two girlfriends, one of whom was on her phone almost the entire time. It wasn’t because she had to respond to work emails or had some sort of family emergency; it was so she could photograph each dish and cocktail that came to the table, which she then uploaded to social media right then and there.
According to my friend, this woman kept her attention glued to her phone, checking to see how many likes her photos had received and who had commented. When the others tried to ask her a question or engage, she was too distracted to hear. She might as well have not come.
I find that sort of behavior unhealthy and indicative of poor social etiquette. A dinner should be time to catch up with the people you’re with, not faceless strangers on Instagram. I know plenty of people — particularly younger folks — who like to document their meals and activities on social media, but it should be done sparingly. Ask your companions if they mind a quick photo here or there, take the picture, and then put the phone down. You can upload your images and add hashtags later at home, or on your next trip to the bathroom. They’re not pressing.
I also advise clients to wrap up any business well before their dinner date. Send those work emails ahead of time. If you get to the restaurant before your guest, don’t kill time by texting other people or striking up new conversations; that’s a guarantee that your phone will be flooded with alerts and messages, which will distract from your meal. If you are a parent who needs to have their phone handy, consider turning off your app notifications so that only important calls come in.
Who knows? You might actually enjoy the company of flesh-and-blood folks who deserve your full attention. Being unplugged from time to time can also help you wean your addiction to technology. You can always catch up on those tweets and texts later.