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You Need to Stop Using Your Phone at Dinner. Seriously.

author image Shannan Rouss
Shannan Rouss is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She has written for magazines including Self, Prevention, Glamour and Cosmopolitan, and her work has appeared online at, and elsewhere.
You Need to Stop Using Your Phone at Dinner. Seriously.
Put the phone away and enjoy some face-to-face interaction. Photo Credit: DGLimages/iStock/GettyImages

If you’re one of the rare people who never checks their phone when they’re out to dinner, you’re off the hook. (Also, what’s your secret?) As for the rest of us, new research from the University of British Columbia confirms what you might have already suspected: Dining while distracted by our phones undermines the whole experience.

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“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,” said lead study author Ryan Dwyer, a Ph.D. student in the department of psychology, in ScienceDaily.

For the study, Dwyer and senior author Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., randomly assigned groups of three to five friends or family members to either dine with their phones or go without them. (The phoneless group had their devices turned to silent and placed in a container out of reach.) After the meal, participants answered questions about their experience.

The results? Those who had their phones on hand enjoyed the meal less than those who unplugged. The phone group also reported feeling more distracted, bored and tense.

To confirm their findings, researchers conducted a second experiment, surveying more than 100 people five times a day for a week. They asked participants to report what theyvd been doing over the preceding 15 minutes and how they felt. Once again, being “with phone” when socializing hindered the experience.

“When [survey respondents] had been engaging in face-to-face interactions, they felt more distracted and reported lower enjoyment if they had been using their smartphones than if they had not,” wrote study authors.

Of course, as far as cellphone hazards go, this is hardly the worst. (Just check out this warning about sleeping alongside your device.) Before you swear off your phone entirely when you’re with others, Dwyer offers this balanced take: “It will probably not ruin your social life if you use your phone occasionally at dinner, but frequent phone use during such social interactions might chip away at your well-being over time.”

Plus, by resisting the urge to check the latest headlines or see how many new likes your Instagram post received, you might actually connect in a more meaningful way with your pals. And your behavior could rub off on others.

As Dunn told Time, “People are more likely to use their phones when others around them are also using their phones, so that suggests there may be this sort of domino effect. By putting your own phone away, you might be creating a positive domino effect.”

So there you have it! Putting the phone down and actually engaging with the people around you encourages others to do the same. Try it and see!

Read more: How to Talk to Your Partner About Their Smartphone Obsession

What Do YOU Think?

Are you guilty of checking your phone when you’re hanging out with friends? Have you noticed that doing so means you’re less present and connected to those around you? Are there any tips for unplugging that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!

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