When I was growing up, I remember seeing commercials all the time about how the dinner table was about family time. How conversation should rule the room, just as much as the food set upon the table. Thinking back, I'm not sure there was ever anything that I could have brought to the table that would have interrupted the meal, let alone any conversation. Maybe my original GameBoy, or a book. And, that probably happened once or twice. But, for the most part I think my meals with the family were relatively undisturbed.

That isn't the case these days. We have so many different devices that we can bring with us anywhere and everywhere, that it would seem almost strange not to see something at the dinner table. Your smartphone. A tablet. Maybe an eReader. Or, if you live on the fringe, maybe you've got your dedicated mobile gaming device.

The devices that we love so much have a way of integrating so perfectly into our lives that we barely even think about them being in the way. Maybe you never do. Pulling your phone out of your pocket to answer a text message while you're talking to someone face-to-face seems natural these days, half expected. It could be a generational thing, though. It wasn't too long ago that my parents used to give me dirty looks when I was on my phone while they were talking to me. Even if it was just for a moment, any kind of interruption got me "the look."

Needless to say, they have my full attention when they talk now.

I used to think it was generational, anyway. I bring this up because I saw something interesting this afternoon while I was eating lunch in a mall's food court. I had some time to kill before I caught a movie, so I got some Chinese food, found a seat, and started on my meal.

Sitting next to me was a family of four. The father, mother, son and daughter. Picturesque, even. All four members had a plate in front of them, but only two of them were eating. Now, if this "device-as-a-tool-of-interruption" is a generational thing, then the common sense estimation would be that the two kids were using their phones, while the parents were busy munching their lunch.

Not the case. Not this time. I laughed a little when I saw both the father and mother completely ignoring the world around them, while the kids didn't even have their phones out. As far as phones go? The father seemed utterly captivated by his Galaxy S III from Samsung, and the mother was rocking an iPhone. To be honest, there was a moment when I thought that maybe, just maybe, the kids didn't actually have phones, which is why they weren't busy on them as well.

But, as soon as they were all finished, which was surmised without an actual word spoken, the kids tossed their food and then pulled out their phones a little later, nonchalantly. Meanwhile, the parents never put their phones away.

Now, I don't know the details. I don't know if the parents had some rule where the kids weren't allowed to have cell phones out during meal times. Maybe they used to have them out too much, and this is their punishment. But, even if that is the case, are they being taught a lesson if the parents are too busy to eat, thanks to their cell phones? Maybe that is the lesson: don't starve yourself just to have a conversation with someone somewhere else.

I think all that time without a device when I was a kid at the dinner table has hardwired me not to use my phone while I'm eating food. So, my parents win. But I honestly don't mind. I don't think about it. Sure, I get messages or alerts while I'm eating, but I use the food as an excuse to not look at it. To take a break. Separate myself from being connected all the time. No, it doesn't last long, but it really is worth it.

So I'm curious, Dear Reader. Do you bring your phone, or other device, to the dinner (or breakfast, or lunch -- brunch, maybe?) table? Or, are you like me, and use the time to take a break from the world around you?

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41 Reactions to this post

"Do you use your phone at the dinner table? Or in other historically "taboo" places?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
Thanks for your participation! :)

Malik Harris No I think it's a little extreme. We can unplug ourselves for a little while. Plus, I wouldn't ever want to risk getting food on my phone, or spilling something on it!
Suleman Bajwa SOME TIMES..
Lewis Hall @larry You stupid
Larry Valdez What's a dinner table?
Sylbert Joseph It depends on where i'm at and who I'm eating with. If its a group of my close friends, and we're not celebrating, or discussing anything serious, yeah the phone will come out. On a date/parents/family/any other serious occasion, the phone is at bay. The most I would do is check it and put it right back in.
Bruce Wilbanks I'm out at dinner right now wit the fam and on the phone. It can't be helped in 2012 when we are always "plugged in"
Steven Pereira Five years ago I would have shot dirty looks at anyone that pulled out a phone at dinner. Now, it's become part of almost every routine...BUT, checking my phone and TALKING on it are different stories.
Jacky On Only when the waiter takes forever to order and deliver our food.
Josh Jardine If I don't have my phone I feel naked. Do I eat naked? Well I guess sometimes but I have my phone with me.
Max Labuda During sex is acceptable. I've gotta check who tweets
Matt Carey I eat alone. Forever alone
Sue Riot Nope. If you are eating face to face with someone, it's rude to use your phone. If you are fortunate enough to share a meal with another person, then put all your energy into enjoying that persons company
Cyrus Taylor What's funny is even my mom uses hers at the table lol
Todd Tabern What about using your phone at the dinner table is rude? I think conversation at the dinner table is kind of rude, since it causes people to frequently speak with food in their mouths... Don't talk to me while I'm eating, damnit! =P
Jennifer DeAlmeida No, unless something really important. :)
Robert Urriza yup. steak, mash potatoes, green peas and a side of iPhone 4s : )
Brandon Beamon I do, but I try not to.
Brandon Coffey No I'm one of the few people (or so it seems) that still finds people using their phone during dinner or conversation is rude. You will be alright to pull your phone out of your face for an hour.
Enis Fazliu The question is do we use our phone during sex????
Chenou Xiong Let's put it this way...its with me all the time.
Roy Groh Oh yeah... smartphone is my 2nd wife!! must with me!! LOL
Tan Chong Ling You can say I use it every 5 minutes in my daily routine.
James Gustavo Hidalgo I use my note as a plate for my food
Bernie Fen All day everydayyyyy
Maxi Fabián Anywhere and anytime.
Tony Abiama I use it at the dinner table, standing in line, at work, while using the bathroom, in the shower, and while sleeping
Travis Robinson Hell yeah!
Matt Cain @Dayan all you see at my church are iPads and phones. I use the same bible app during service and I love it.
Kevin Collazo Absolutely no phones at the dinner table, and CERTAINLY not in church. Come on. Bible app or not.
Dayan Inclán Dinner table is a phone free zone. Use my phone in church tho. Love the youversion bible app. Keep the phone on silent tho.
Amanda Rae Yes I do
Alex Brujo Of course if not I would be forced to talk to my wife
Ronnie Boone Yup! And my wife does too.
Qi Ren in my culture, using phones on the dinner table is considered being rude.
Larry Ivie Yep! So shoot me!
Lowell Orlando Richmond unless it's for pics...i don't use it...table etiquette 101 man
Eddie Gutierrez Yes and everywhere
DAvid RC of course. what would dinner be without it? lol

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