What do you think about eating with the phone? I mean literally. Not talking on your phone during a meal. Or messaging. Or thumbing through it. But actually using your device as a utensil.

That’s the concept of a rather odd Kickstarter campaign. The product is a smartphone case, on the back of which fits a detachable “Phork” and “Sphoon”, as they’re called. Attach the utensils to the bottom of the case and, voila, you can eat while continuously looking at the screen.

It can’t possibly be a serious venture, can it? Coverage of the campaign suggests that it may all be a big goof, or perhaps an ironic statement on our phone obsession.

Are we starting to look at phones at the table as something that just belongs there, no different from the salt and pepper shakers?

A survey last year found that almost one in three Americans bring their phone to every meal. One in three also said that they eat so mindlessly and fast in front of a screen (whether phone, tablet or TV) that they can’t believe how quickly the food disappears. Distracted eating can influence what we eat, how we eat and how much we eat.

Another study, from researchers at the University of British Columbia, revealed that checking the phone at a restaurant leads to a modest but still noticeable decrease in a diner’s enjoyment. No real surprise. Technology at the table makes people feel less socially engaged.

History professor Yuval Noah Harari has expressed deeper concerns about this phenomenon in his latest book, called 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. Harari wrote two previous books on how humans and societies have evolved and continue to (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow). All three are highly recommended.

In 21 Lessons, Harari notes how much easier it is to connect with family and friends anywhere in the world, and how much harder it is to connect to your family at the dinner table because everyone is glancing at their phones.

We know that’s happening. Just how much are we losing? Maybe our bodies themselves, suggests Harari.

He writes that we have the power to share our experiences across boundaries, but we really need to connect to our own. If we’re losing our ability to pay attention to what we smell and taste, and becoming more interested in cyberspace than our own actual space, it means that “technology is distancing us from our bodies.”

“People estranged from their bodies, senses and physical environments are likely to feel alienated and disoriented,” suggests Harari. “If you don’t feel at home in your body, you will never feel at home in the world.”

Should the day come when we’re merely disconnected body parts connected to devices, stick a phork in us, we may be done.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxman, connect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at foxmancommunications.com. I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, etc., etc.

January, 23, 2019

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