I apologize for this post being late, but for the longest time yesterday I was debating what to write about. My schedule hasn’t opened up enough where I can document making fondant and marzipan like I promised (I’ll get around to it though!), and I was really kind of lost as to what I felt needed to be said, but hadn’t yet.
As I type this, I’m sitting in a South Jersey Starbucks, sipping some Earl Grey (yes, it’s plain, and no I don’t go for fancy coffee drinks.) Yesterday afternoon was spent similarly, except that I was sharing my table with an old friend of mine, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister.
It was during this afternoon that today’s topic sprang upon me as not only something that HAS been said before, but needs to be repeated, and shared at a personal level.
Meeting up in the coffee shop, we proceeded to laugh, joke, and share news of what’s been going on in each other’s lives (apart from what makes it on to Facebook.) Her boyfriend and his sister arrived, we exchanged greetings, and chatted for a while.
Then it happened.
Had I been more cynical, I might have been counting down to it’s occurrence.
Everyone took out their cell phones, and conversation stopped.
I will break here to make a point. I am not a Luddite. I love technology. I have a Facebook, a Twitter, and a blog (thanks for reading, by the way!) In the old days, I even had a MySpace and a Livejournal. I will even freely admit that I do not blog/twitter/post as much as I should (particularly as a small business looking to make social media work for him.
My issue here is not about people being too connected. It’s not even about people connecting in the “wrong way.” There IS no wrong way to connect with others, as long as no one is harmed or brought to grief.
My issue is about people’s use of time. In this case, I was sitting at a table for the first time with an old friend I had not seen or spoken to in some months, her boyfriend with whom I rarely speak, and his sister whom I meeting for the first time. This was an opportunity for us to catch up, share jokes, and laugh. This was an opportunity to talk to a new person that I knew nothing about, and who knew next to nothing about me (at least not firsthand.)
Instead, everyone was looking at their phones, poking through Facebook.
While this would be annoying at any time, I suppose I was struck by the irony of it being at a table with food.
Food with people, for me, has always been more of a social function than a strictly biological one. Many of my fondest childhood memories are centered around food, and particularly family dinners. My parents would impress on me basic table etiquette-
“No toys at the table.”
“No reading at the dinner table.”
“Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and ask for things to be passed instead of reaching.”
There are wonderful warm memories of gathering around my grandmothers table for holiday dinners- the whole family laughing, swapping stories and jokes, and discussing vital matters of the day.
Meals have been a cornerstone of family social life for millennia- whether gathering around the campfire, the hearth, the kitchen table, or a long table at a fine restaurant, eating has long been associated with enjoying people’s company. Some of my happiest times recently are Sunday nights- I visit my girlfriend, and we make dinner together for the two of us and her mother. We sit, eat, talk, and most frequently, laugh.
Now, when I go out with my family to dinner, I can almost count down to the exact moment when conversation ceases and everyone pulls out their phones. They are checking Facebook, checking Twitter, playing games, doing anything these wonders of modern technology can do- anything besides sharing your day with the people in front of you.
I do not mean to stand on a soapbox or come across as a grouchy old man, but I can’t help but find the habit of checking one’s internet life at the table somewhat insulting. My motivation in becoming a baker and making food my life WAS that vital intersection of food, space, time, people, and love. I became a baker because I wish for EVERYONE to have those family dinners, those dinners at my grandmothers, and Sunday nights like I share with my girlfriend’s family. This is certainly not a Norman Rockwell world, and I’d be kidding myself if I insisted that everyone shut off all their phones, hold hands, and start singing “Kumbaya.” All I ask is that people today make a conscious effort.
So here is a little challenge for you, my dear readers.
Next time you are at the table, with your family, friends, or whoever, before you take out your phone, pause. Look at the faces around you. You are sharing food with them- an intimate moment. Why suck the life out of this moment? Think to yourself, “Who are these people? Do I truly not have any questions about them? Do I know everything about their lives?” The answer will likely be “no”- put your phone down and speak.
If the answer is “no, and I don’t care”, excuse yourself from the table and find some new people to eat with.
Be warned though- your phone is probably a lousy cook.
Be good to each other, be kind, and- very importantly-