Let us, for a moment, consider the cell phone.
It’s a wireless wonder that allows a homesick student in South Carolina to call his eagerly awaiting parents in California, or video chat with his recently graduated friend in Michigan, or text that cute girl from The Den.
We can check email, let Facebook know how we’re doing or tweet a random thought to the world. The cell phone can do all this and more at any time with just a push of a button or a tap of a screen.
Tasks that had once required a telephone, a computer, and a pencil and paper are now bundled up into one, easy-to-use device that lets us keep in touch with a whole world of people at once, but does it distract us from the people who are sitting directly across from us at the dinner table?
Our electronics are so good at keeping us entertained that sometimes it’s easy to forget that some of the people we use those phones to communicate with are right next to us.
Our best friend could be just a few steps down the hall from us, but instead of walking a couple of steps to share a piece of exciting news, how often have we used our time-saving, distance-cutting devices to do the work for us?
And why does it even matter if we use texting to talk? You might have even said the words as you typed them to make sure they sounded right before you hit send.
What difference does it make if you physically say something to another person or not?
You may recall seeing a story pop up on your Facebook newsfeed earlier in March as you scrolled through during your lunch break. It was a corny little thing about a Chick-fil-A manager who started a promotion called the Cell Phone Challenge. The manager noticed a lot of customers paying more attention to their phones than to the rest of the table they were enjoying their meals with, so he thought he’d try encouraging his patrons to put down the devices and enjoy a little friendly mealtime conversation.
Enter the Cell Phone Coop. To participate in the challenge, customers put their cell phones on silent and “locked them away” in the box. If the whole table could go for the whole meal without freeing that caged-up phone, the diners each received a small ice cream.
The social experiment spread and is now available at Chick-fil-As across the nation, including here in Greenville.
It sounds like a pretty small reward when you consider that the Instagram world might not know what you ate for dinner that day, but what this restaurant manager aimed for was more than just a cheap gimmick to get people to buy more food.
For some of us, our whole world revolves around our phones. We use them to communicate so much that we forget to talk to the people around us.
When we talk face to face, we engage much more in the communication. The eye contact builds bonds.
We can actually see the effects that our words have on others. We can tell when someone is actually having a good day or is just saying that they’re all right to avoid calling attention to painful emotions.
Putting down our phones is difficult. We’ve trained ourselves to pounce on that new text or to respond to emails as quickly as possible, but maybe it’s time for us to start remembering what’s more important. We aren’t always going to have face-to-face conversations with the people around us. Instead of relying on technology to build up and maintain relationships, let’s focus on people here and now.
Let them know that they’re loved now when you can see the hurt in their eyes, not just when the words can be typed and sent off without any real thought.
When you go out with friends to have dinner this weekend, promise to keep your phones put away. Focus on the conversation and enjoy the people while you have them around. Try putting your phone in the Coop, and enjoy some real conversation. Instagram won’t mind if you skip a meal or two.
If you’ve tried the Chick-fil-A Cell Phone Challenge before, or even if you and your friends have done something like it, we here at the Collegian would love to hear about it.
If you have a story about what putting your cell phone away did for a meal, share it with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/BJUCollegian.