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We don’t like playing etiquette police, but lately we’ve been seeing a lot of confusion around the proper role of cell phones at dinner. In particular, a certain tech blogger seems to be on his way to defining this as the new normal.

But it isn’t. And it’s not going to be.

Here’s why.

MG Siegler sees a future of phone-enhanced dinners: looking up Peter Falk’s IMDB page, discussing the latest tweets and generally keeping tabs on the online world, without having to break for an actual conversation. It’s a nice idea, but it goes against a fundamental fact about food culture—one Siegler might be a little too wired to recognize.

When you sit down at a table, you’re agreeing to be present in a real, physical moment. Why else did you come here? You ordered this food; don’t you want to taste it? You invited this woman; don’t you want to talk to her? It’s not that the world of Twitter is inherently less conversation-worthy than the rest of your life, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you ever talk about. We need a non-digitized, unplugged space, and the dinner out is as close as we’re likely to come. If you can’t exist without a smartphone here, you won’t be doing it anywhere.

Of course, you’ve got business to attend to as well, so in the likely event that you’re keeping tabs on some Gekko-esque master plan, we’ve got an out for you: the powder break. At some point, one of you will take a break from your intense evening of soul-baring honesty to use the facilities, at which point all bets are off. You’ve got a precious few minutes to sort through any potentially earth-shaking emails that may have come through, before returning to the rest of your life. If that means you’re excusing yourself often enough to raise concerns about your bodily health…it might be time to reprioritize.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom