Too much screen time, not enough face time

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Two kids and two adults. The mom tears out the earbuds from her son’s head. She says, “Tell the server what you want to eat.”

Heads down, eyes glued to a screen and fingers flying a mile a minute – is technology starting to get in the way of face-to-face interactions at the dinner table?

Not only seen in restaurants, the ever-increasing amount of technology has started to take the driver’s seat as opposed to looking someone in the eye and holding a conversation.

Although the world is evolving, and being at least familiar with technology is both unavoidable and necessary, where does one draw the line? People text while driving, tweet in class, and let everyone know where they are at any given moment on Facebook. I can picture it now: “Dinner with the fam #boring.” Be there. Be present. Be engaged.

For some families, sitting down together for even one meal is near impossible between school schedules, work, sports and any other extracurricular activities. Although some families may still be able to eat a meal together, are people really together when engaged with their cellphones rather than the person sitting across from them?

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and same goes for technology. There’s movies foreshadowing a future of “robots” taking care of everything and essentially making humans, and human interactions, obsolete – and the idea doesn’t seem too far-fetched. There’s already machines that calculate simple math for employees when giving change, self-checkout lanes that for the consumer might seem like a quicker trip to the local grocery store, but for the actual cashier, that’s one less reason to give them a job.

We’re surrounded by an endless market with “the next best thing” and if you don’t keep up, then you’re outdated and behind. And although some may not realize it, this begins to affect us in what we think are in smaller ways. Everything has to be cheaper, better, faster, easier, etc. And this has even made its way into restaurants. I would think for most, going out to eat, either with family, friends or just to treat yourself, should be leisurely. What’s the rush?

Restaurants are beginning to implement a device placed on each table where guests can swipe their credit cards. Although it’s understandable that it may help with credit card fraud – taking the responsibility off of the business if it’s a stolen card and taking the responsibility off of the guest if the server “skims” their card – if that’s what their end goal is, then why not just stop there?

Some of these devices will offer the option of ordering your beverage, appetizer and dessert in addition to the guest being able to cash themselves out. Instead of interacting with the server, guests will be able to do most of  it on their own. For some of these devices, a number of games are available for purchase and the amount charged will be added to the bill. So, now you have a family who already probably brought their cellphones and other electronics, and now each table will get a hand-held device that encourages them to be less socially engaged and instead, stare at a screen.

There needs to be moderation. It’s hopeful that society will realize that it’s not a good look to evolve into a species that constantly has its head down, and thumbs always poised to send a text message. But, that’s up to us. So, set aside the cellphone, turn off the television. Instead, sit around the table and indulge in some much needed, old school, face-to-face conversation.




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