By Cameron Crane
Does anybody have a good app for interacting with each other at the dinner table?
When this status showed up on my Facebook newsfeed, I couldn’t help but laugh. The truth is, these days, when you invite a friend to dinner, you are also typically inviting their iPhone—and all the wonderful distractions that come with it. I can’t tell you how many times I have been sitting at dinner table with four or five people in complete silence, as we all attempt to stay connected to our social networks, only slightly cognizant of the fact that we are missing the opportunity to connect with one another.
I think the majority of us understand that being on the phone at the dinner table is rude. We have all felt that tinge of frustration when we are sitting with a friend or family member telling a story as they text away, only to have them look up from the screen and say, “sorry, can you say that again? I was distracted.” They might as well have looked up and said, “sorry, I have more important things to do than listen to you.” Yet, how many of us can honestly say we are not offenders (if not chronic offenders) of this?
Beyond manners, there is the need to recognize that what we are really doing is missing out on the opportunity to be present. To put pressing matters that are weighing on us aside, and give ourselves the opportunity to just enjoy good company and good food. To truly connect with the people and places around us. Some of the most interesting and enjoyable conversations I have ever had have been at the dinner table. Who can say the same for text messaging?
It is this concept that inspired Thomas P. Farley, more popularly known as Mister Manners, to launch Thanksgiving Unplugged this past November. The campaign was designed to reclaim Thanksgiving from digital distractions, asking children to take a pledge to unplug at the dinner table. It was founded on the belief that “freed from the increasingly inescapable distraction of cell phones, laptops, tablets, hand-held games, music players, social media and the web, families [would] once again reconnect with the true spirit of the holiday.” The campaign was wildly successful.
The truth is, many of us have a desire to be present and to unplug. It’s healthy. If the only time you walk away from your phone is when you are taking a shower or crawling in to bed, how much time are you actually giving yourself to be in the moment?
I’m betting that this year you made a resolution to eat healthier. I sure did. I know we are a few weeks in to January, but why not amend our definition of “eating healthy” to include not only the food we eat, but the way we eat it? Let’s have a year of healthy, present, connected meals. Chances are, we will walk away wanting a lifetime of them.
Not sure how to talk to your children about being present and living in the moment? Try What Does It Mean To Be Present?, the award-winning picture book by Rana DiOrio and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.