Dinner and a show: Unraveling why I can’t eat by myself without my phone

Joseph Ferrer, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Eating is an essential task that we have to do every day. Yet almost every time I sit down for a meal by myself, I can’t find myself able to eat unless I have my phone right next to me playing a video. The actual content that I end up watching is variable, it can range from a series that I’ve been watching to podcasts to random video essays on obscure movies that I’ve never seen. I rarely end up remembering the videos I’ve seen by the end of the week given how much content I watch, but regardless, if I have to eat by myself, I actively try to always have something playing in the background.  


This isn’t a ridiculous situation where I legitimately can’t eat without having something to watch, and I do have more than enough social awareness and control to put my phone away when sharing a meal with other people. However, it’s become enough of a habit that I have a YouTube playlist full of videos that I plan to watch during those specific times when I’m eating. Eating alone in silence feels unnatural, and I recognize that this isn’t the most ideal habit to have.  


I understand the importance of giving yourself time to be with your thoughts and away from distractions, and I do try to set aside time for that when doing other daily menial tasks like doing the dishes. Yet for some reason, if I have the opportunity to put something on in the background when eating, I almost always take it. Part of the reason may be because eating feels like an interruption from everything else that I want or have to do. In the few times that I eat alone without having something to do, I find myself eating as fast as possible to be done with it and get back to actually doing something. Having something to watch or put on in the background while eating alone not only helps make the task feel like it goes by faster, but it also makes it more enjoyable. However, as I try to rationalize this behavior, it only makes it more apparent that I am very much still part of this generation that in general finds it extremely difficult to take time away from their phones and technology.  


I remember when I was younger, it used to be considered a treat in my family to be able to eat in front of the TV. It was my family’s way of minimizing screen time and prioritizing sitting down and having meals together. However, this was before most people had near-constant access to their smartphones with an infinite amount of content to consume. I know I’m not alone in sharing this urge to always have something playing in the background, and I think it would be beneficial for everyone to have more time to separate themselves from having to be distracted by content. Yet, knowing myself, the most likely thing to think about when I’m having my next meal alone won’t be this but rather what new video I’m going to use to pass the time next.