SMARTPHONES ARE RUINING THE DINING OUT EXPERIENCE, STUDY FINDS
It’s the first scientific-based study to prove that phone use can undermine people’s enjoyment of social engagements
It’s no secret that sitting across from someone glued to their phone is a bit of a social buzzkill.
You might have more to offer than Tinder, WhatsApp and Snapchat put together, but when it comes to competing with the seductions of a smartphone, it’s ultimately a losing battle, a new study suggests.
Not only does keeping your phone out at a restaurant distract and dissatisfy whoever owns the phone, it can also ruin the entire experience for everybody else by making it that much harder to sustain meaningful conversations, a team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia, Canada found.
Researchers recruited more than 300 participants, sending each of them out to dinner with friends and family at a cafe in Vancouver in groups of two or four.
In a random selection process, some diners were asked to keep their phones on the table while they ate whereas the others had to keep them out of sight.
Once the meal was over, everyone was given a questionnaire to rate their enjoyment of the experience.
They were asked to assess levels of boredom, distraction, interest and an awareness of time passing.
Those who kept their phone on the table rated enjoyment levels 0.36 points less than those who didn’t.
Meanwhile, they also reported higher levels of boredom by 0.28 points and rated distraction levels higher by 0.46 points.
“As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected,” said Ryan Dwyer, lead author and PhD student in the university’s department of psychology.
“When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about – apart from offending them – we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away.”
“We had predicted that people would be less bored when they had access to their smartphones, because they could entertain themselves if there was a lull in the conversation.”
However, it wasn’t just in restaurants that phones proved socially detrimental.
The psychologists conducted a second experiment involving 123 university students who were required to fill in a survey via their smartphones five times a day for a week, in which they were asked to state how they were feeling and what they had been doing for the past 15 minutes.
A similar pattern emerged, in which participants who spent less time on their phones reported higher levels of enjoyment and engagement in real-life social interactions.
“We’ve known for a while that the act of just glancing at a smartphone at work can distract you from what you were doing for up to 25 minutes afterwards, so it’s not surprising that we’re now seeing this impacts on our meals and times with friends too,” said Tanya Goodin, author of OFF: Your Digital Detox for a Better Life.
“If we’re even slightly distracted we’re not fully engaging with the people we’re with and that’s one of the big pleasures of sharing food with other people, it’s no wonder that makes us enjoy mealtimes much less,” she told The Independent.