Put Down the Phone, Pick Up the Conversation: Reclaiming Table Manners in the Digital Age

There was a general consensus on table manners before the digital age, mainly focused on the use of chopsticks. Do not cross arms with others, do not use chopsticks to search for dishes, do not point at people with the tip of your chopsticks while speaking, and do not suck on the tip of your chopsticks before using them. What people find annoying is not the same for everyone. Some people cannot accept eating from a plate, some cannot accept lowering their heads to eat from a bowl, and some cannot accept chopsticks knocking on plates and bowls. However, there is a basic consensus: it is annoying to smack your lips while eating, and it is annoying to spray food all over the table while eating and talking.

In the digital age, mobile phones are on the table, but so far, a set of unified table manners has not been formed, which is an incredible thing. I have some thoughts on this.

I think mobile phones should not be on the table. Now, for many people, the left side of their hand has become a dedicated location for mobile phones, which is used specifically to enshrine their own mobile phones. It makes the already small space even more cramped, and the purpose of doing so is simply to make it convenient to see mobile phone prompts. What is a mobile phone? It is a personal item. No one will take off their watch or glasses and put them on the table to eat, but mobile phones have this privilege. Moreover, when the mobile phone “dings”, people will stop eating, reach over to look at it, and this scene is very sad. It feels like eating while working on an assembly line, and looking at the mobile phone is the main business. People take the time to put something in their mouths. This situation only happens in sweatshops.

I think the first two minutes of the meal can be reserved for enshrining the mobile phone. After the dishes are served, everyone does not eat first, takes out their mobile phones and holds them high, allowing the mobile phones to enjoy the wok and the essence of the ingredients first, which is equivalent to the ancient sacrificial ceremony. I am not an unreasonable person. It is acceptable to enshrine mobile phones. After all, many people want to take pictures and post them on Moments. Since everyone wants to enshrine their mobile phones first, they might as well give everyone two minutes to enshrine them together. In this way, personal private enshrinement will no longer be allowed, such as saying “Wait for me to take a picture first”. Don’t wait, the sky is big and the earth is big, eating is the biggest, why should others wait for you?

I think it is not allowed to use mobile phones while eating. Many people explain that everyone is chatting, and I just happen to not be interested in the content of the chat, so I use my mobile phone. Many people also explain that I have important things to deal with and need to reply on my mobile phone at any time. Neither of these explanations is valid. Eating and chatting, this is an offline meeting, not an online group. The basic etiquette is that when others speak, you need to listen, which shows respect. If you feel bored, you should use your mobile phone. Then why don’t you go home and use it? Why don’t you ask everyone to share photos of the dishes in the group for you? If you only want to eat and don’t want to listen to others chatting, then why don’t you open a table by yourself?

Important things are not valid on the dinner table either. The logic is as follows: if the matter is really important, then you have no reason to attend. You should concentrate on dealing with those important matters, otherwise there is a problem with your ability to do things and your judgment. If both the matter and the gathering are important and you have to show up, then when dealing with the matter, you should leave the table and go to the corner to solve it yourself, so that the importance of both sides can be reflected.

I also think that shooting live videos on the dinner table is not allowed. As long as you take out your mobile phone and hold it up to shoot, this behavior should not be understood as recording a good gathering, but should be understood as recording future evidence in court.

Dining together is private and confidential, but once the video is put online, it becomes a public event. That is to say, what you say to your friends in private may be put in public for countless strangers to discuss and criticize, which may often have an impact on reality. This is not the speaker’s original intention, nor is it the purpose of dining together. Moreover, this destroys the foundation of trust, and dining together will not be relaxing, which is no different from a meeting at work. So, does everyone need to dig a hole in the ground, lie down at the entrance of the hole and speak into it?

If the above dining etiquette can become a consensus, it is possible to let dining return to dining, and Internet access return to Internet access, and dining will continue to maintain its traditional style of privacy, intimacy, relaxation, pleasure, and mutual trust. Otherwise, it is better for everyone to order takeout separately, open a video conference, and eat remotely at home. At least in this way, they will not look at their mobile phones frequently – because everyone is in their mobile phones, which is exactly the so-called “fighting magic with magic”.

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