(Source: Laura Sheehy)
I have grown up in a family where media at the dinner table is always a no go. As I have grown up, this has become loosely shaped depending on a variety of factors, including who is at the dinner table. This then begs the question, when, if at all, is it okay to use a phone or any other device at the dinner table?
Pictured above is an image I captured during my Sail Croatia week last year (2015). It was family dinner night with the group we were travelling with and we were enjoying a beautiful meal in Old Town Hvar.
I’d like to point out that I discussed my using this image with everyone pictured, it wasn’t easy however, I let everyone know what I was doing, the purpose of this post and how they were being depicted, including sending a link of this post to all of them so that at anytime they could request the removal of the image or how they were depicted in the image. Consent in images is of high importance in public spaces. It is so easy to just say ‘oh they won’t mind’, and even though I could assume that no one in the image would have a problem with it, and no one did, I have come to appreciate the importance of consent of images in the public sphere.
So getting back to the post, as you can see, there are at least 7 people, plus myself using their phones when I took this image. I was simply capturing the moment so that I could add it to my euro photo collection to look back on at times when I’m locked away in my room doing blogs or essays and I’d rather be back on Sail Croatia with these legends.
So the point I’m getting at is how did I grow up whereby my parents banned the use of media at the dinner table, to sometimes if we were eating dinner in the lounge room mum might check her iPad and I’ll have my phone next to me. Then there’s being out at dinner, if I’m with one friend, phones are a no go, but as soon as there is more than that its like phones are okay. This whole concept has made me real curious as to how the rest of the world understand the use of media during meals.
Pew Research Center documents that 67% of American frequently or occasionally use their phones whilst catching up with family and friend whilst “Many also report using their phones to pass the time, catch up on other tasks or get information about the people they are planning to see” (Rainie & Zickuhr 2015). When I Google ‘mobile phone etiquette’, an array of blog posts and webpages come up with a list of do’s and don’ts; let me tell you NO MOBILE PHONES AT THE DINNER TABLE is at the top of every single ‘don’t’ list. But there are too many variables in this to have it as a blanket rule. There is a lot of grey area, and using a phone doesn’t necessarily mean having a shouting match with someone on the other end, it could simply mean checking the train timetable for what time you’ll need to wrap up dinner or if you’re talking about you’re euro trip and your friend asks to see photos so you’ll get your phone out, or your mum is yelling at you via text message saying “YOU NEVER TOLD ME YOU WOULDN’T BE HOME FOR DINNER! YOU CAN BE SO DISRESPECTFUL SOMETIMES, WE WILL TALK ABOUT THIS IN THE MORNING” like sometimes you need to address these situations whilst sitting at the table?
Then there come differences in gender and age; Deborah Kirby Forgays, Ira Hyman, and Jessie Schreiber undertook research regarding cell phone etiquette in their journal article Texting everywhere for everything: Gender and age differences in cell phone etiquette and use. They concluded the following;
“For text messages, age played a role in all situations and gender differences only appeared for public situations…The pattern repeats the overall pattern for text message etiquette – younger groups are more accepting of text messages than older groups. In the public situations, we found an effect of age group, a gender difference again showing that men thought text messages were more appropriate than women. The etiquette results can be summed up relatively simply. People generally feel texting is more appropriate than cell calls in a wide variety of situations (with the exception of driving). Men believe cell phone calls are more appropriate than women and there are no age differences in beliefs about the appropriateness of cell phone calls in various situations. This contrasts with texting. For texting, we only observed gender differences in public social situations, and found strong age differences with young people, who make send and receive more texts, believing texting is the more appropriate method of cell phone use in a great variety of circumstances.”
So where do you stand with cell phone etiquette? What are your guidelines or rules when it comes to using your phone at the dinner table?
Keep on doing you x
Forgays, D K, Hyman, I & Schreiber, J 2013, ‘Texting everywhere for everything: Gender and age differences in cell phone etiquette and use’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 31, viewed 27th August 2016, <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563213004032>
Rainie, L & Zickuhr 2015, Phone Use in Public Areas, Pew Research Centre, viewed 27th August 2016, <http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/26/chapter-2-phone-use-in-public-areas/>