Just as it is bad watching TV while eating, so is the habit of cell phone use during meals. This is especially true if the mealtime in question is centered around family, friends, or treasured occasions. Just as well, multitasking with technology at the dining table is bad even when we are dining alone!

Technology gadgets at the dining table go against all mealtime etiquettes simply because they are distractive, addictive, and keep us away from family, friends, and colleagues! While they interfere with the eating activity, they actually deny us the opportunity to digest and enjoy the food we are eating.

The dining table is the place to really, really take time off, unplug from everything else, and indulge in nutrition.

Of course, there are moments we will have to keep our mobile phones close to us for understandable reasons. Notably when we expect important calls that could be the difference between life and death or waiting for a critical assignment with the doctor.

Fortunately, these emergencies come far apart and should be kept that way.

Otherwise, we should have the phones in silent mode – and better still, turn them off completely! A single mealtime won’t last an hour, surely, and the time-off won’t kill us either.

Reasons why cell phone use during meals is not cool:

We are unhealthy when using phones during mealtimes
Cell phone use maims our ability to pay full attention to our meals

1. It Is Plain Rude

We are rude or disrespectful when we use our mobile phones to make calls, send text messages or surf the internet while dining with family or friends.

When we choose to sit down with those close to us, we need to appreciate their presence and make the moment last a long time. This should not be too much to ask. When family and friends dine with us and have visibly placed their phones aside, we should take note.

As a whole, meal times are supposed to add up to the few moments in our day, when we just need to be PRESENT, and savor the smell, taste, and sight of the food in front of us.

It is also disrespectful to use our phones in public restaurants, where other patrons have to shrug off our audible conversations. We are ruining their mealtimes as well!

According to a Pew research in 2018, cell phone use in gatherings annoyed those close by.

82% of all adults (not just cell owners) say that when people use their cellphones at social gatherings, it at least occasionally hurts the conversation and atmosphere of the gathering. Some 37% say it “frequently” hurts the gathering and another 45% say it “occasionally” hurts the gathering, while only 18% say it “rarely” or “never” hurts the gathering.

2. It Turns Us Into Fussy Eaters

It is pretty obvious that indulgence with our mobile phones will distract us from eating normally. In any case, we spend more time swiping away than touching our food.

When the brain is taken up by the sight of the smartphone screen, it will under-utilize the other sensory elements, especially smell, taste, and sight which are all closely linked to eating. And because the body does not get to appreciate these and other important eating senses, our ability to enjoy the food diminishes.

Ultimately we fail to appreciate the taste, aroma and look of the food and the good virtues that come with eating. We will easily turn to play with instead of eating food.

We will most likely develop a liking for snacking and crave sweetened drinks simply because they complement our newly acquired disorder. Snacks and cola are easy to acquire and have no eating time table.

Since they are loaded with simple calories and sugars, snacks are absorbed fast, and make our bodies crave for more every other hour or so.

3. It is Bad for Health

Fussy eating easily develops when we waste out mealtimes with technology. We tend to lose interest in food altogether and only eat a little to keep the body alive.

Second, we find ourselves overeating as a result of indulgence. This one happens to affect us most owing to the extended periods we spend on our cell phones.

According to the Health Sciences Department, Universidade Federal de Lavras, and Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Universidade Federal de São Paulo in Brazil,  and the Department of Oral-Maxillofacial Surgery, Prosthodontics and Special Dental Care, University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, cell phone use during meals increases caloric ingestion,

The use of smartphones during meals may possibly influence the number of ingested calories… Eating with distracters increased approximately 15% caloric ingestion… Smartphone use during a meal increased caloric and lipid intake, depending on sex and age in young adults with complete dentition.

Overall, cell phone abuse during and after mealtimes can lead to numerous medical conditions:

  • leads yo tech neck and overall bad posture
  • obesity, which can lead to diabetes in the long run
  • facilitates the transfer of germs from the touch screen to the mouth
  • exposure to cell phone radiation

4. A Bad Example to Children

The untethered attention we give the smartphones badly interferes with our parenting roles. The vast majority of us carry our phones to the dining table without much thought. The uncontrollable attachment we accord them makes us go through meals oblivious of those in our company. These include our children!

Unfortunately for us, the children are watching, learning, and are bound to become even worse users of tech when they grow up1

We see little of our children, let alone indulging in face to face interactions. We are also unable to find out if they are enjoying their meals, or notice anything out of the ordinary, while they are eating.

Mealtimes are meant to be QUIET, at least in the eyes of several cultures around the world. Come to think of it, this could be the perfect moment to interact and find out more about our children.

Just imagine what we can exchange with them during this time:

  • Discover from them what should grace the next meal
  • Find out about their well-being
  • Update them on family news and values
  • Find out about their progress at school
  • Let them know why technology is disruptive at the dining table.

Of course, we should keep this to a minimum to ensure the food on the table is the ultimate priority.

Trust me, we do this, and we are bound to become better parents and bring up responsible children, very much capable of handling technology mischief even in our absence.

5. Cell Phone Use During Meals Denies Us True Happiness

cell phone missuse can lead to unhappiness
Cell phone misuse can lead to unhappiness

Here is the other thing, indulgence in phubbing or other activities that sway our attention from eating will subconsciously affect our overall well-being with real people. The effects may not seem serious in the short run, but will actually affect our social health negatively. It maims our ability to relate with others. This can happen in the short and long run, and can seriously stunt our social skills and development.

Cell phone use during meals affects how we relate and feel about those around us because we talk less and see little of each other.

When our mind is preoccupied with what is on the other side of the phone, we focus less and lose interest in people around us.

We ultimately become sad with ourselves.

According to a study by the University of British Columbia, phone use in the wrong places may deny us the enjoyment derived from real-life social interactions. This includes dining table interactions.

Participants were randomly assigned to keep their phones on the table or to put their phones away during the meal. When phones were present (vs. absent), participants felt more distracted, which reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends/family.

We need to get our lives back by declaring phone-free zones, such as the dining table.