(well not really.)
I do; however, hate some of the consequences of social media. The one I hate the most? Phones at the dinner table. While social media is not the only reason there has been an uptick in the amount of phones at dinner table, it plays a huge part.
I love my family, but it really bothers me when they’re checking in on Facebook or refreshing their Twitter and Instagram feeds while sitting right across from me. I go to school away from home so I rarely get to sit down with my family to eat a meal. I understand that we might not be talking about something terribly interesting, but I value this time so much so it really irritates me when my loved ones don’t feel the same way. This ad sums up very accurately how I feel in these situations.
I’m not ignorant about the situation; I know that I’m guilty of doing this as well, but I really wish I wasn’t. And this seems like the case for most people as a Pew Research Center study showed that 88% of people believe it is generally not OK to use a cellphone at a family dinner. The same study showed; however, that 89% of cell phone users used their phone during their most recent social activity with others. So why do we do it?
Maybe we want to see if a friend is going to meet up with us or we want to see what the best item on the menu is at a restaurant, so I get it. But that doesn’t mean the phone doesn’t detract from the interaction. If I’m talking about the food I ordered with someone and then the waiter brings it out, then let’s keep talking about it. Don’t “pause” the conversation to whip out your phone and take a picture to post to Instagram. Because the “pause” button here isn’t really a pause. It’s a stop.
Studies have shown that the mere presence of phones detract from interactions, nonetheless using them. A study from Virginia Tech found that “Even without active use, the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections. Individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact.” This is powerful. While we seemingly gain so much from using social media, we are losing basic human interaction skills, leading to a more anti-social and technology driven world.
Even if you’re not worried about the interconnectedness of humans, you still should know this: in a study published by the National Institute of Health, in cases where young adults had high mobile phone usage, there was higher incidence of stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression. That should get your attention.
It might be obvious that social media is partially to blame for this, but a study performed in the UK backed this up. When asked what tends to distract people at the dinner table on their phone, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter were the biggest distraction as identified by 56% of respondents. Coming in second at just under 50% here was messaging apps and emails, which depending on your definition can also be considered social media. Conversation with others who are not present is chosen over conversation with those who are in the immediate situation.
Consider the value of the benefit you gain from social media. Does it outweigh the negative effects? This post isn’t meant to tell you to completely stop your habits, but maybe reconsider them. If nothing else, be aware of how much you are checking your phone. If you can at least temper that, your relationships might be improved. On top of that, your health may be improved in the long term. Next time at the dinner table, maybe actively choose not to bring your phone and urge others to do the same.