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Texting at The Table: A Necessary Evil? I Don’t Think So.

I just returned from a 16-day vacation. The food, scenery, and activities were superb, but the best part for me was going that long without technology. I admit the first five days were hard. My hand twitched nervously without a cell phone in it. My heart palpitated at the sight of my laptop. It was difficult to turn the on/off switch to off because my brain works on a dimmer. Finally, I forgot about the cell. Mainly because nobody around me had one. I went to meals and actually spoke with strangers. There is a noticeable difference in the dining experience without technology.

Upon arrival at Miami International Airport, I was stunned to find 92 percent of the people attempting to go through immigration, luggage retrieval, and customs while texting. I felt like I landed in a world of zombies. People ran their wheeled Tumi bags over my feet without noticing. They held up lines because they were distracted. I vowed not to go back to that.

Texting at the dinner table is not a new issue. I have a friend, oh we’ll call him Belevan, who texts in the car, in a movie, and at tables in fine restaurants. His defense is that he has to be available at all times. It’s a horrible emotional tornado that whips up when you text, Facebook, Tweet everything you do. I’m guilty. My job is time sensitive and dependent on instant information, but I am drawing the line now at the dinner table. There is nothing worse than talking to the top of someone’s head while they text in their lap.

It must drive restaurateurs nuts. Service people as well. It’s rude and disrespectful to the people you are eating with and the food you are eating. Anybody have a suggestion for how to stop the madness? Perhaps restaurants should add a phone usage charge to the bill.

  • Beda

    I was at Ali Baba last week and there were three people at a booth next to me. One woman held her cell phone in her left hand the entire time they sat at the table.

    I doubt your friend or anyone else has to be “available at all times” such that they can’t set it aside for a meal (or bathroom break?). Put the phone away while having a meal with others. It’s the epitome of rudeness to do otherwise.

  • Scott Reitz


    You’ve got to try it. Look to the stack for cell phone salvation…

  • Nancy Nichols

    Scott, I love that idea. However, it hasn’t worked for me and the people I associate with. We are talking hard core porn, I mean cell phone, addicts. They would add one to the stack and then have another one in their pocket. Junkies. Phunkies.

  • irodguy

    We live in the connected world. When I travel, I use the restaurant time to check and answer email. It’s just a fact of life. People expect us to communicate and return emails asap. The tech genie is out of the bottle there is no putting it back in.

  • Amy S

    I still don’t get Twitter. Only how many words? What kind of conversation is THAT?

  • Raya Ramsey

    When my boyfriend and I go to dinner, we agree phones stay in pockets/purses. There isn’t much (I, too, am “on call” since I work on a 24-hour website) that can’t wait ONE hour. There is one exception to the rule, though–when we want to Google a fun fact that contributes to our conversation. Or, of course, if we’re arguing and I want to prove I’m right.

    I get that some people need to keep their phones nearby, but have they considered how it makes their dining companions feel? Unless all parties agree cell phones are okay, 60 minutes of keeping company in real life (gasp!) won’t kill anyone, right?

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  • MsX

    I can’t tell you how many meals I’ve sat through while my ex-husband talked on his cell or checked & responded to e-mails. I might as well have been dining alone. I understand the necessity to be connected, but it has gotten out of hand. Maybe if he had put the phone down a little more, he wouldn’t be my EX-husband!

  • Mar

    I know I have been guilty… But we are getting better at putting our phones away during meals out. Once everyone is there (in case someone texts they are running late- don’t get me started on that.) the phones go away. If you have to check your phone and text during dinner so much? I might as well be eating by myself instead of trying to have dinner with a friend. :)

  • Sally-Page Stuck

    I had to giggle at your article. Well, giggle at modern day technology. I keep my cell aside during dinner (most of the time!).

    The funniest usage of said smart phone occurred at a very noisy restaurant. The band was so loud, we could not hear each other. I posted on my friend’s Facebook wall, “Please pass the ketchup.” He checked online, then passed it without speaking.

  • Nancy Nichols

    SPS, in your case I would rule a cell phone is legal!

  • Jamey

    I think it just depends on the of the phone usage. I (like most of my friends) am often compelled to snap a photo of my food and upload it to the requisite social media outlets. That’s within the context of the meal in general, so I think it’s ok.

    But if it’s just someone truly texting/conversing with another person on the phone as opposed to the real-life dinner patrons, then yeah – that’s rude. Though I’d take the cellphone texter over the cellphone talker any day. There’s nothing I can stand more than someone talking on their cellphone at a table full of people.

  • TheBrad

    Just read this over lunch on my iPhone.

  • milkandcookies

    Jamey that just sounds sooo weird to take pictures of your food to post immediately.
    Do others comment on your nutrition?
    Is it a health calorie sorta thing?

  • Jamey
  • milkandcookies

    @Jamey thanks interesting article
    as far as cool kids, well guess you know
    where I rank….

  • john

    We are creating a society of people who have no idea what it is like to interact with other people. Do kids even talk anymore, or do they just text, listen to music, and play video games? It seems everywhere you go, be it parks, malls, theatres, etc…the majority of people have some sort of technology gadget in their hands and are totally tuned out to the world around them. At what point in our society did it become necesarry to have some sort of stimulation at all times instead of being able to just sit, relax and observe your surroundings or enjoy the company of friends.

  • luniz

    I totally support Nancy’s position on this issue. And just because “everybody does it”, doesn’t mean it isn’t inconsiderate, obnoxious, and stupid. I don’t care how full of yourself/BS you are, the world can wait an hour to hear from you.

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  • Sammy

    The idea that “People expect us to communicate and return emails asap” is a total fabrication made up in each person’s head. We have all created this strange sense of technological self-importance that people are waiting for our email or text response with bated breath – sitting and staring at their phones or computers, totally unable to carry on with their lives until they hear back from us with our response to some inane work question or comment.

    You know what? Those people are busy doing their own thing, and will live another day if you don’t email or text them back within 5 minutes.

    Put the damn phone down!