Every single one of you has likely experienced this scenario: you're having dinner or drinks with some colleagues or friends when one of them gets an alert on their phone. While your friend is replying, you remember that you need to check your email, so you whip out your phone as well.
Before long, the entire table has their heads down and their focus on their smartphones — instead of on each other, the forgotten conversation, or the waitress attempting to get your orders.
It's hard these days to know when the line has been crossed from being always available to being always slightly rude. With all the gadgets clamoring for our attention day and night, it's easy to get distracted by our devices, especially when they're rarely out of reach. Some people don't mind this tech invasion, but many of us are starting to miss being able to spend time together without a constant stream of interruptions. For those of us who are trying to get the upper hand on our phone habits, there's a handy dinner game called the Phone Stack to test your resolve.
It works like this: when each guest arrives at the table, they place their phone face down in the center of the table, where they will remain for the entire meal. No matter how much they ring, bleep, or ping with missed calls or text messages, the phones stay in the pile because (and here is the genius of the game) if you pick up your phone, you're also picking up the tab. Yep, that's right — answering your phone in the middle of dinner now has consequences aside from just getting dirty looks from the next table.
Now, it should be said that this handy bit of social engineering is likely to meet with resistance from the tech-addicted, but the fact is we often ignore the the rules of common courtesy when it comes to our mobile phones. The Phone Stack is simply a game among friends, based on the idea that you genuinely enjoy everyone's company and care enough to give them your undivided attention. The game can be played at home as well; during dinner parties the first to pick up their mobile may be responsible for the dishes, for example.
It's good to keep in mind that there is no reason the rules can't be amended. For example, your on-call EMT friend who also has a pregnant wife a few days away from delivery? Maybe he can leave his phone face up to make sure none of the incoming messages is a true emergency. Everyone else at the table, however, will just have to resist the impulse to give in to temptation and check in on Foursquare, post photos of the food to Facebook, or update Twitter. Unless, of course, you're feeling generous. Then by all means, pick up that call.
Read More: The Phone Stack on Kempt