Daily Challenge: A Technology-Free Meal

How many times have you eaten a meal with family or friends, only to have half of the people at the table otherwise distracted by their cell phones? Technology can be a wonderful thing, but… it can also be a pain sometimes. Is there anything more frustrating than trying to sit down and have a nice dinner with someone, only to have them sit there texting, Facebook messaging, Tweeting and Instagraming instead? To be honest – it never really bothered me, and *I* have definitely been that person who uses their phone during dinner…. but I think about it more and more, and in all honesty — it’s pretty dang annoying and slightly disrespectful, and I’m trying to get out of the habit of doing this. To me, it says that you don’t really care about the person you’re sitting down to share a meal with, and you’d clearly rather be somewhere else. Like I said: a little disrespectful.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all just put our technology away and focused on real, intimate, face-to-face conversation, even if just for one meal?

This is my challenge to you. It could be once a week, once a month, or however often you would like. But agree to, on a semi-regular basis, have ONE meal with your loved ones (family, friends, significant other, etc.) where no one uses their cell phone or other technology during the meal. From the time you sit down to the time the check is paid — allow the experience to focus on conversation instead. Be present in the experience and put the digital conversations away. They can wait an hour. I’m not asking you to do this at every meal (though wouldn’t that be glorious?!), just on occasion.

Maybe you’ll just do this once, or maybe (I hope) once a week, or regularly like that. It’s nice to step away from technology and focus on the people across the table instead.

I know, this might sound crazy. What?! Actually TALK to the person you’re supposed to be spending time with?! What nonsense is that?!

But honestly — conversation is seriously underrated nowadays. In a world that’s gotten used to squeezing important thoughts into 140 characters, using chatspeak and slang in text messages, and having all of our friends and family just a tap of a button away, the art of sitting down and having a face-to-face conversation is half-forgotten. Let’s bring it back.

You might be thinking – well, okay, but what in the world are we supposed to talk about?! So for those of you who are puzzled and asking that fair question, here are some ideas. Obviously the level of intimacy for these questions and conversation starters depends on how well you know the people around you at the meal — but it’s a start.

  • Talk about what you’ve done the past seven days. Work, school, travel, good meals, movies you’ve seen, adventures you’ve embarked on, etc.
  • Talk about what lies ahead in the coming seven days. What do you have planned? What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Have you heard anything interesting in the news lately? Seen a good movie, or a bad movie? How about a new TV show?
  • Have each person share a goal for their life.
  • Exchange compliments.
  • Talk about your dream homes, dream vacations, dream cars, dream jobs.
  • Share embarrassing stories.
  • Discuss your idols.
  • What would you do if you only had 24 hours left to live?

Obviously these are just starters, but the whole point of this is to encourage intimate, face-to-face conversation. Step away from your phone, put down the device, and be present in the moment, if only for a one-hour-long dinner every week. Share each other’s company without the addition of 500 of your “closest friends” who are available at the touch of a button via Twitter, Facebook and the like. Sharing a meal together, sitting down to eat, should be more than just a casual experience, and bringing back the art of conversation might just make it a little more special and intimate.

I would love to challenge everyone in my life to do this, and even those of you who I don’t know… try it. Who knows, maybe you’ll actually enjoy having a real conversation and decide to try it more often!

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