Metro, Food, Featured Column, Column

If You Let Go Of Your Phone, You Get Free Food

You can’t help it. The instinct is gnawing at you. Maybe you can just take one quick peek. What’s the harm anyway? The person across the table is boring you—prating on and on about her sister’s friend’s cousin’s connection to Ryan Reynolds. You can’t take it anymore. So, you give in. You take out your iPhone from your pocket and open your Twitter page—hoping to find greater entertainment than you can from the person sitting across from you.

In doing so, you are unknowingly participating in a movement that is circulating Boston and around the world—engaging more with your smartphone than with your dinner partner.

Salvatore’s restaurants across Boston are looking to fight this trend. The popular restaurants are typically known for offering fine Italian dining with the quality and ambiance of the North End. Now, Salvatore’s is offering a special called “Off the Grid Mondays,” which gives customers the chance to enjoy a free lunch if they turn in their smartphones at the door.

Salvatore’s offer is oriented to promote people returning to the basic concept of sharing a meal untethered to emails, texts, and calls. The idea came from the general manager of the restaurant noticing people literally not speaking to each other while dining.

Salvatore’s offer seems like a great idea to test your cell phone addiction. Perhaps there is such thing as a free lunch.

The question that follows is, can we do it? Can people part with their smartphones long enough to enjoy a free meal?

Last weekend, I ventured downtown to the Boston Public Library to do some studying and reading in the famous McKim building. The large space features a structure similar to Bapst library on campus—long tables with ancient artwork and a sea of green lights—creating a scene that looks like it taken out of a Harry Potter movie.

As I walked through the jam-packed library searching for an open seat, I was surprised that many of these people were not studying or reading. Instead, blue-and-white-colored phone screens illuminated the library, as dozens of people were clicking through their Facebook news feeds. The action was contagious, because like everyone else, I gave in. I was inclined to pull out my iPhone and scour anything relevant to prevent me from studying.

I don’t like to admit it, but I am addicted to my cell phone. And I am not alone—especially in Boston. Our city ranks at the top of a list of U.S. cities whose residents are most dependent on their cell phones, and nine out of 10 Bostonians reported that their phones are more important to them than their cars or laptops, according to a survey by Bank of America. Another study by the Journal of Behavioral Sciences found that 60 percent of college students are addicted to their phones, and female students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their phones—which amounts to more time than most people get of sleep each night.

The truth is, I can skip my daily coffee fix. I can do without eating chicken tenders at late night. I’ll even pass on missing an episode of my favorite TV show on Netflix. But regretfully, I don’t think I can part with my phone. It is something that I am working to change.

Maybe it’s time that we all take a break from our phones. It might be as simple as putting the device away for a meal and enjoying a conversation with someone devoid of any distractions. Salvatore’s offer is a small step in the right direction to become less inclined to whip out our phones at every free moment.

They say it takes 21 days to truly break a habit, but why not start with an hour and a free lunch?

Featured Image Courtesy of Salvatore’s Restaurants

October 29, 2014