Why We Use Our Smartphones At Restaurants

Many use their smartphones without thinking about it, even in social situations, but why? Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at why people in cafes pull out their phones, and found three main reasons: 1) to delay or pause a conversation; 2) to get out of a conversation, or 3) to share something with others.

Delaying interaction is when you check your phone in the middle of a conversation for almost any reason, this is also known as “phubbing” (phone + snubbing) and can be taken positively (a good break from a long conversation) or negatively, while using your phone to get out of a conversation completely (leaving the room to take an “important call”, for example) is often seen as unpleasant, and content sharing is the most useful or pleasant way to use a phone, and can sometimes be the opposite of taking a break from interacting (think of sharing a photo or a document you want to show the person you’re talking to.)

Study co-author Professor Aksel Tjora says, “The study dispels the myth that everyone is constantly staring at their screens no matter the occasion, and shows that a form of courtesy with the phone has been established, at least in situations where the social aspect is prioritized. Whatever the reasons, one thing seems certain: smartphones have changed how we behave socially, for better or for worse. But maybe socializing has just become different in a way we need to be conscious of.” (EurekAlert!