Not enjoying your dinner out? Try putting the phone away

Researchers looking at the effect of smartphones on face-to-face social interactions found that people who used their devices while out for dinner with friends and family enjoyed themselves less than those who did not.

Smartphones might make people feel more connected, but they likely don't belong at the dinner table, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Researchers looking at the effect of smartphones on face-to-face social interactions found that people who used their devices while out for dinner with friends and family enjoyed themselves less than those who did not.

"As useful as smartphones can be, our findings confirm what many of us likely already suspected," said Ryan Dwyer, the study's lead author and PhD student in the department of psychology. "When we use our phones while we are spending time with people we care about -- apart from offending them -- we enjoy the experience less than we would if we put our devices away."

For the study, the researchers asked more than 300 people to go to dinner with friends and family at a restaurant. Participants were randomly assigned to either keep their phones on the table or to put their phones away during the meal. After the meal, they were asked a variety of questions, including how much they enjoyed the experience.

When phones were present, participants felt more distracted, which reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends and family (about half a point less on a seven-point scale), the researchers found.

Participants also reported feeling slightly more boredom during the meal when their smartphones were present, which the researchers described as surprising.

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