Put Your Phone Away! – Vanessa Tai

Scenario 1: You’re pouring out your woes to your best friend, and when you look up, she’s glancing furtively at her phone. Annoyed, you ask her, “What do you think?” She looks at you, pauses, and says, “Sorry, can you repeat that? I wasn’t listening.”

Scenario 2: You’re famished, and are all ready to devour the hot plate of food placed in front of you. But just as you’re about to dig in, your friend cries, “Wait! Wait! I wanna Instagram it!” So you have to sit back while she gets that perfect shot of your food (which is growing colder by the second).

Do the above scenarios sound familiar? These are actual real-life incidents that have happened to me not just once or twice, but almost every time I’m out with friends. And it’s not just one friend in particular who does this. Recently, I went to a dinner party of about 10 to 12 people, and I swear, there were several moments during dinner where every single person was checking their phone. So yes, because this glued-to-phone problem has reached epidemic proportions, I’ve decided enough is enough. Something needs to be done, stat.

I won’t bore you with the reasons why we need to put an end to this crazy phenomenon – it’s disrespectful to the people you’re with, you don’t get to enjoy meaningful conversations, etc. Instead, here are a few suggestions to curb this social ill.

Solution 1: Phone Stacking

This ingenious idea was apparently devised by a young woman in the States, who was also annoyed by her peers’ increasing dependence on their smartphones. Basically, this is how it works: before a meal, everyone would stack their phones in the middle of the table and the first person to reach for their phone has to foot the bill. Sounds like a great idea … but does it really work? Well, I recently put it to the test (see picture below!) when I went out with a group of friends for supper. Thankfully, everyone was quite sporting. Trust me when I say I truly felt like our conversations were more genuine and well-thought-out. Although there was the occasional awkward silence – which would normally be filled by people checking their phones – we just used that time to think of other stuff to say, or simply ate our food. See! It does work!

Solution 2: Have mini-breaks

This is similar to phone stacking, but instead of checking your phones only at the end of the meal, you could have an agreement with your friends to only check your phones for five minutes at an agreed interval. Again, anyone who breaks this rule will have to foot the bill (or at least pay for drinks). This is probably a more plausible solution, especially for your friends who are hardcore smartphone addicts … you know the kind whose palms break out in sweat if they’re not clutching on to their phones.

Even as I type this post, I can hear my friends’ voices in my head, “But you check your phone too!” Yup, I’m guilty as charged. However, this post is me taking a stand. From henceforth, I will make a concerted effort not to whip out my phone during mealtimes.

And if I do, drinks are on me. Promise.

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