How can a tablecloth lead to smartphone-free dining?

The average smartphone user checks their device 47 times a day. And 85% of smartphone users will even check their phone while speaking with family or friends, according to bankmycell.com. You see people in restaurants all the time who are sitting across the table from each other, and instead of staring at each other, they’re staring at their phones. So, what can be done to avoid that people act this way?

These days, we don’t seem to be able to function without our phones. This phenomenon triggered designer Ralf Lambie to create SAMEN: the social tablecloth that encourages people to ignore their phones while eating. The special pockets in the tablecloth work like a Faraday Cage: no messages or calls come in, and there are no vibrations or illuminated screens. No quick googling or sharing pictures of your meal on Instagram, just focusing on your dinner partners. 

The world’s first Faraday tablecloth is called SAMEN. In Dutch, the word ‘samen’ means together. And that’s what this tablecloth is about: reuniting people around the dinner table. SAMEN blocks your phone’s distractions and promotes face-to-face interaction. It encourages you to temporarily store your smartphone in one of the signal-blocking pockets during a dinner party. This allows you to talk to your lover, friends, or family without being interrupted. The rest of the world can wait. 

Our phones play increasingly important roles in our lives, even at the dining table. Look around any restaurant, and you will notice straight away that many people are interacting with their smartphones. They seem more interested in what’s going on in the outside world than right at their own table. 

And that’s such a shame. Researchers at University of British Columbia discovered that people who use their smartphones during dinner with family or friends enjoy the dinner less than those who don’t. And research conducted at Virginia Tech showed that the mere presence of a smartphone, even when it isn’t used, has a negative impact on the quality of one-on-one conversations. People are less likely to open up to the other person and have more difficulty expressing their deeper feelings. 

SAMEN is a project by Studio Ralf Lambie, a creative agency for product and service design. 
Read more about the agency and the project here.  

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