Cellphones Can Hinder Dinnertime Social Connections

New research finds that having your smartphone present during dinner may damage social interactions and hinder enjoyment. A simple solution is to keep the phone away or have it on vibrate.

Experts say the old charge of keeping your “elbows off the dinner table” may now be replaced by “take your phone off the table.”

The research will be presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Annual Convention.

Investigators reviewed the assumption that engaging in phone use during social interactions can dampen happiness. The new study, however, is the first field experiment to gather empirical data to prove the point.

Ryan Dwyer (University of British Columbia), Elizabeth Dunn (University of British Columbia) & Kostadin Kushlev (University of Virginia) tested 304 people in a field experiment at a restaurant.

Groups of three to five friends or family members were randomly assigned to the phone or phoneless condition at a local café. After the meal, the participants answered questions about their experience.

Dwyer and colleagues found participants derived less enjoyment from a meal with friends and family when phones were present than when phones were absent.

Phones do not need to be completely off limits, according to Dwyer, the study’s lead author.

“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,” said Dwyer.

They followed up their experiment through experience sampling, where they asked people to report what they had been doing and feeling during the past 15 minutes. That study again showed that people derived less enjoyment from face-to-face interactions if they had been using their phones.

“Just having phones out and available makes people feel more distracted,” said Dunn, who will be presenting the research at the convention.

“So, by tucking phones away during social interactions, we can increase our odds of really connecting with the people around us.”

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology