You’ve got to take a photo of every meal you’ve had, or people might start to worry you’ve not eaten anything for months – #picsoritdidnthappen, right? And you absolutely need to be seen as the trendiest foodstagrammer of all with constant pictures of unicorn lattes, Buddha bowls and the latest craze, ‘millennial pink’ lettuce – yes?
Sure, you might be getting hundreds of likes for every photo you put up there and inciting jealousy in everyone from your ex’s mum to your gran’s nextdoor neighbour and that guy you think you might have sat next to in woodwork, or did you once kiss him after a few too many? Anyway, your life and meals might look great online, but we want you to stop and think for a minute – are you actually enjoying yourself in real life?
If you’re spending all of your time on your phone snapping pics, scrolling through your Twitter feed or replying to messages when you’re meant to be enjoying a meal with loved ones, you’re unlikely to be having a truly good time.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia set out to test this theory, sending 304 people to a cafe. Some were banned from using their smartphones during their meal, while others were allowed to have theirs on the table. At the end of the meal, everyone was asked to rate how much they’d enjoyed their dining experience.
The people who’d had their phones out during the meal were much less satisfied with the overall experience and rated their boredom levels an average of 0.28 points higher than those who’d left their phones alone and spent time chatting to friends or relatives, enjoying their company.
Although it’s not exactly a surprise, distraction levels were also higher among those who looked at their phones throughout the meal – on average 0.46 points more than for those who’d left their devices alone.
Overall, the diners with their phones out enjoyed themselves 0.36 points less than the group who’d made more of an effort to spend quality time with the people they were with.
Some people have been complaining for years that having a phone out during a meal is rude and spoils the experience for everyone else. And these findings indicate that the phone user is spoiling things for themselves as well.
But some of us like to have a visual reminder of special meals we’ve eaten or want to let their Instagram followers know that pink lettuce is much tastier than classic green (so last year), so how can we make sure everyone’s happy?
We don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a quick snap of your food at the start of a meal out or before you serve up at home, but wait until you’ve finished eating to upload it. That way, you’ll still get those all-important likes, but you won’t be missing out on conversation and quality time with your loved ones either.
Ultimately though, remember that your phone won’t care if you’ve got news to share, it won’t lend a listening ear when you need one and it certainly won’t let you know when you’ve got broccoli in your teeth. But your friends and family will (let’s hope they do when it comes to the broccoli anyway) – and they’re what matters most.