Table(t) Manners

Growing up my dad always made a point about having good table manners. He made sure we never chewed food with our mouths open. That we always sat up straight. That we we set the table properly and cleared away and washed the dishes afterwards. 

One of the rules was if you didn’t cook, you clean! 

Now that I have kids of my own, I really see the value in what he strived to teach us. Good table manners says something important about who you are. More to the point, you are saying something important by having them. 

It shows respect to those around you. It expresses gratitude for both the food you are consuming and the people you are sharing it with. It demonstrates mindfulness, discipline, love, care… 

The list goes on. 

It’s not uncommon for us to sit down and eat a meal made with ingredients from all four corners of the globe. First grown and tendered to by farmers in remote regions. Then picked, processed and eventually shipped, or flown, thousands of miles to your local super market. 

Have ever stopped to think about the multitude of people involved in creating your dinner? 

When you look deeply there is a great deal to be grateful for. I’m not religious but I love the tradition of expressing gratitude before a meal for that reason. It’s a tradition I mean to instil in my own children. 

Anyway I bring this up because, when I look around at the table manners of today, there’s something that breaks my heart a little. And I’m guessing that you can all guess what I’m about to talk about. If you can’t, then maybe you should get off your phone (hint hint) and have a good look around.

What do you see? Are we paying attention? Are we mindful of our surroundings? Are we expressing gratitude? And I mean really expressing it and really meaning it?

Let me get to the point. 

What do you think it says when you take out your phone to check something at the dinner table? How do you feel when someone else does it? Do you feel anything? Are you even bothered? Or is it just me?

Because to me it feels like this modern exception to the centuries old tradition of having good table etiquette. It feels like everyone has quietly decided that having phones at the table is an acceptable social norm in modern society.

“I won’t say anything if you don’t.” [wink wink]

I wonder if this is because we’ve only been living with smartphones for the last 15 years? Because the parents of today weren’t raised in a world with smartphones?

Or because parents don’t want to acknowledge they might have an addiction themselves? Because they haven’t worked out how to have a healthy relationship with them?

I wonder how many parents are even aware of the damage they’re doing by letting their children look at screens every time they sit down for a meal? 

I see it with some of my friends and I find it alarming. And let me tell you, it’s very awkward when I have to explain to my two year old son, while eating over at our friend’s house, why he can’t look at a screen while sitting at the table, but their kids can (true story).

I genuinely fear the screens we are bringing to the table are doing untold harm to our relationships.

There are many times I’ve sat at dinner while having a great conversation when someone had decided to “check something” on their phone. Sometimes that something is related to the conversation but even so. Rarely have I found that person checking just that one thing. No they get sucked in. The temptation to check several other social media and/or news apps is simply too great. 

And so they click click click, getting one dopamine hit after the next, until they finally “return” to the table where, not only has the conversation stalled, but their head is now plastered across the ceiling. Completely frazzled from all the dopamine and cortisol surging around their system. Undoubtedly ruminating over events which they have no control, or emails they checked but can’t reply to. (You know, because that really would be rude.)

Let’s be honest here. We have an addiction. I would be very surprised if it isn’t all of us who have, at some point, found ourselves unconsciously scrolling on our mobile phones. Perhaps it’s not outlandish to claim that maybe we pick up phones, more often than not, for no other reason than we simply want that hit? Because we crave it so much?

You might think these small moments here and there aren’t a big deal but I believe they add up. All the interactions we miss as a result – when we fail to look up and see the people at our table or elsewhere. These conversations that get interrupted all the time…

The mobile phone has become something to hide behind. A shield from having to face one’s actual reality. I believe this is, in no small part, why we have seen such a rise in rates of depression and anxiety among our adolescents.

As I draw this post to a close it occurs to me that I’m not really upset about the fact that our collective addictions are ruining our interactions at the dinner table (although I am), but that they are ruining our interactions everywhere. Our interactions even, simply, with the present moment.

So I feel the dining table should be the place where we all lay down a marker. Where we make it our last bastion free from smartphones. A place where we make a stand for our children’s sake, so that their lives aren’t completely ruled by the devices in their pockets. The place from which we make a fight back against the infringement of technology in everyday life. Where we stake a claim to be seen – at the very least – by our loved ones during this very precious period of the day.

Ladies and gentleman I believe it’s high time we brought our manners back to the table. To do that, I believe we must leave our phones off them.

Is that asking for too much?

Thanks for reading everyone. I’m aware that technology has been a blessing over the last year or so. Allowing us to connect with our loved ones from isolation. However that doesn’t detract from my feeling that our face to face interactions have been significantly harmed over the past decade by the smartphones we carry around. As a parent it’s our children I worry about the most. I am, of course, keen to get your thoughts and opinions on the matter. Let us know below. Warm regards, AP2 🙏


You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and exceptionally poor self-help advice here at:

97 thoughts on “Table(t) Manners

  1. I used to allow my daughters iPads at the table. Not anymore. Aside from the distractions from eating, they’d end up spilling something.

    I wasn’t raised with electronics at the table; and, I’d be upset if someone sat on his or her phone while in my company, whether we’re eating or not eating.

    1. Thank you for sharing Nova. I wasn’t raised with electronics at the table either which is why I thought it might be worth bringing up. I’ve also read a lot of articles about what smartphones are doing to our youth. It’s rather scary. My kids are still very young – 2 years and a brand new one month old! Anyway I’m trying to think ahead about how I want to raise them regarding technology. Of course it will be a massive part of their lives but I feel I have to draw clear boundaries. It’s easy to let our smartphone addictions get the better of us! I have experienced friends and family a like on their mobiles at the table. It’s always bothered me when people have. Wishing you well Nova 🙏

      1. Same to you Dear! 🙏🏼♥️ People who diligently work on keeping such an important emphasis on family unity and tradition are special.

  2. Oh, absolutely! For me, the cell phone at the table is a dealbreaker, an intolerable rudeness. The only exceptions to that are doctor’s pagers or babysitters calls. Dinnertime is connection time, the only opportunity most of us have to touch bases with each other, or even just with ourselves, and reflect on the day. Even if no food is involved, then that brief time itself is essential and even could be considered sacred. Would you be on your phone in church? Ok, that’s a bit dramaric, but it’s kind of similar. No screentime at the table might be one of your beliefs, and the kids will respect that I think. Whew! Man, you almost got me on a rant there! Time to switch to decaf. 🙂

    1. Thanks KJ. I like the idea of treating dinner time as scared. Truthfully I’ve been rethinking my own relationship to technology a lot recently. I’ve definitely become more addicted since the pandemic started. I’m trying to change that by changing my environment – like leaving my phone in another room while sleeping. Or leaving my phone in a locked draw while trying to work (I think willpower is overrated). I’ve also been thinking about how to raise my children regarding technology – how it is I can teach them to have a healthy relationship with their smartphones as they grow up. I figured that the dinner table is an excellent place to start! Thank you for always sharing your thoughts. Really appreciate it. Happy eating 🙏

  3. A P, I remember the first time I saw baseball caps being worn in a restaurant, I thought it was the height of rudeness! Now we see it all the time! Also, we find ourselves surrounded by numerous smartphone conversations, sometimes to the point that it is hard to hear each other at our own table.

    One of the few differences of opinion I ever had with my younger daughter was her smartphone use at the table and while I was driving. Cell phone use beside the driver can be very distracting as well as rude! I told her that we were spending time together, and our attention should be on each other. We came to a compromise. When spending time together, phone calls would be made or answered by mutual agreement. That worked well for us. <3

    1. Hi Cheryl! Still catching up on everyone’s posts I see 😊. That’s a lovely story about you and your daughter. That you came to a compromise. Seems like smart fair parenting to me! This is what gave me the idea for the post. Thinking a little deeper about the boundaries I want to set for my own children as they grow up. How I might do that.

      That’s a good point about cell phone use besides the driver! Never thought about that. Here in Hong Kong many taxi drivers have their smart phones (sometimes several of them) lined up on the dash board. I have had many an argument with them telling them to focus on the road and not their phones!

      Thanks you Cheryl. As always. Wishing you well 🙏

  4. Loved this article! I deleted Instagram fairly recently and I do think it’s made me more mindful and thus grateful. Social media = too much stimuli! Too much to really process. Using Instagram often left me feeling restless and internally uneasy. Focusing on each bite of food, every person I speak to one-on-one…really boosts gratitude and overall well-being, methinks 💛

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    1. Thank you – I’m pleased you did. I have several social media accounts I never use. I should really shut a bunch of them down myself.

      You got me thinking about how are cups are so full to overflowing we don’t have the room to take anything else in. Cutting down to the essential. Simplifying. That’s what leads to greater presence and with it happiness.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

  5. Oh, I don’t think asking for table manners is asking too much. No phones at the table seems like a fine rule to me. No TV either: it’s how I grew up, how many of us grew up. I get testy when I’m with someone/people socializing and phones come out. It’s rude.

    1. Glad you agree. I didn’t think about the no TV comparison but you’re right. It’s exactly the same. Here in Hong Kong having the TV on in the background during dinner is normal in many local household. It’s annoys the hell out of me. I realise now that perhaps it’s worse in this part of the world? Simply because the culture is different? Anyway, like you I get very testy as well. I made my feelings quite clear to my family over Christmas! You can dine with your phone but not at my table. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Em! Wishing you well 🙏

  6. Some things really should remain pristine. No phones at the table is one of them.

    In African societies, meal times were preceded by a story session. It was chance to connect and touch base.

    Phones do the opposite. They teleport elsewhere. You are connecting but not with people at the table.

    We need to revisit some of these norms.

    What you trying to instill in your kids, a zero-phone policy during meal times, is the way to go!

    1. Thanks Billy. Meal times preceded by a story session sounds like a wonderful tradition! Along the same lines, I love the idea of coming to the dinner table prepared with something you want to share or talk about. You’re right phones take us away from the very people right in front us. Wishing you well buddy 🙏

  7. I’m lucky because I married a foodie. When I was a single man, I didn’t appreciate food the way I do now. And for that, I’m thankful.

    Like you, I was raised by people who stressed the teaching of manners. I wonder if that makes me old-fashioned?

    I have actually witnessed, on more than one occasion, a table full of people eating at a restaurant with all of them simultaneously looking at their phones. When I see such, i wonder if they’re even aware of where they are and what they’re doing.

    Having said that, I made a telephone confession quite a long time ago now. Here’s that confession:

    You connect a lot of different things well here, AP2. I truly appreciate this…

    1. Thanks Troy and thanks for the link. I enjoyed the post.

      I’ve begun to see the less wants we have in life the freer we become. I believe peace is firmly rooted in letting things go! Sadly I feel like the phone has made this more difficult. It’s become this kind of weird extension to our bodies where we feel naked without them. I’ve recognised it in myself a lot more over the past year ago or. I decided I need to make some changes. I now have a digital sabbath one day a week every Sunday. When at home I leave my phone in another room throughout the day – that way if I want it for something then I’m making a clear choice to go and get it instead of mindlessly taking it out of my pocket.

      I became a foodie through travel. I was obsessed with travelling the world first. Then I learned my favourite way to travel is to experience different cultures through cuisine. I always look up food tours when on layovers or seek out local restaurants or food stalls. Sadly my layovers are strictly confined to hotel rooms at the moment. At this point I’d like to say – thank god for mobile phones! Modern technology has it’s blessings as well of course…

      Thanks for the chat Troy. I appreciate your thoughts. 🙏

  8. I agree 100%, AP2. And while we’re defining phone-free zones, maybe we could add gyms, or at least gym machines that other people are waiting to use, to the list!

    1. Thanks Jane. Having phone free zones is a great idea. I think that should apply to all pedestrian walkways as well. Many people walk off the underground here in Hong Kong going to and from work while watching some sort of TV programme on their phones and or iPads!! Never ceases to amaze me. Of course it’s everybody else you has to move out of the way because they are completely oblivious. I also once saw a man cross the street while looking at his phone. A bus was charging towards him as he stepped out. He managed to cross the road just before being hit (I mean inches away) The bus honked its horn and tried to slow down but it was going to fast to come to a complete stop. This man only looked up after he crossed the road! He looked in the direction that the bus was but had since passed – he never saw it! Then he carried on with his day. He had no idea how close he came to dying! Wishing you well Jane. Stay mindful 🙏

      1. Thanks, AP2. I’ll try! So you’re in HK. Your world is just filled with changes and challenges these days, isn’t it?! Stay mindful and stay safe. 🙂

  9. Yes, technology has been a blessing, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. My boyfriend and I make it a point to put away our screens when we eat whether at home or going out. It’s depressing to see other couples engrossed in their phones instead of each other . . . Catchy title, by the way!

    1. I completely agree. When my wife and I go in date nights I leave my phone at home. Attention is 100 percent on her. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Glad you liked the title – I was happy with that one 🙏😊

  10. I completely agree ! The best gift you can give someone is your total attention and have it reciprocated and whilst sharing food that has been lovingly prepared….even better xxx

  11. Table manners have gone by the wayside, that’s for sure. SmartPhones are the culprits these days but there was a forerunner. Before the SmartPhone, there was the TV, and many still are glues to the boob tube while they eat. There hasn’t been any interaction between household members in decades. The art of conversation has been buried by the dribble on the TV and on the SmartPhone.

    1. I agree there has been a transition. Before, the TV was usually placed in a different room to the dining table. Now people causally take their phones out willy-nilly. Constantly disrupting conversations. Even when people don’t mean to – phones rarely fail to invade family meal times. Everyone’s household is different of course. It’s up to us to make sure phones aren’t allowed at the table (at the very least). Lock them in a draw and throw away the key if that’s what it takes. I reckon we need to reclaim that invaluable family time. For the sake of conversation and much more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙏

  12. ‘Completely frazzled from all the dopamine and cortisol surging around their system. Undoubtedly ruminating over events which they have no control…’

    I really wonder what this is doing to the collective consciousness of humanity. If recent events are any indication, we should all take this much more seriously.

    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post.

    1. That’s a great point – I suspect it’s got a huge amount to do with the increasing divide we have seen. Many of us are living in completely different realities. Not only that we are all paying less and less attention to our actual lives. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

  13. What a great post. I totally agree with you. If I’m dining with someone and they pull their phone out, it makes me feel unimportant to them. Then I figure, hey they pulled their phone out so maybe I should too. It’s not healthy for any of us. Or our relationships with those we love.

    1. Thanks Rhonda – you bring up a great point. When one person does it how the rest of us follow suit. That’s why I believe it’s up to us as parents to be especially disciplined. To really set a good example for our children. The art of conversation is developed in these little moments when we feel a bit awkward. We need to resist the temptation to hide behind our phones. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this matter 🙏

    1. I think we are all guilty to some
      extent. I’d be a hypocrite to say I haven’t done the same. I tend to think willpower is overrated for this reason. We need to be careful with our addictions – one easy way to fight it is to leave our phones somewhere else entirely. Ie not at the dinner table or by your bed when your sleep, etc. That way willpower is taken out of the equation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

    1. It is what it is. We must learn to live with them of course. Leaving it off the dinner table as a matter of courtesy is, to me, one way of setting a clear boundary. And I sincerely believe we need them when it comes to our phones. Thank you for your comment 🙏

    1. Thank you. I have been guilty of this myself truth be told. Now I place my phone in another room before sitting
      down for dinner. That way I don’t have to rely on my willpower! Wishing you well 🙏

  14. This is the raw truth of our current generation.
    When i go out with friends who have children, their only way to keep their child from disturbing the dinner is by giving them a phone and make them watch something! I see both side of view, it still gives a wrong idea to the future. The child is being suppressed of their emotions or forget to learn table manners/ discipline how not to disturb a conversation.
    Your write up is great, hopefully an eyeopening to many. 💜💜💜💜

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think it’s a slippery slope when you start giving your children a phone to stop them from disturbing others. The problem is then you have to keep doing it others pandemonium will ensue. I feel it may be better to take the harder route of teaching them how to sit patiently early on. To teach them to how to engage with others early. Of course this is very difficult at times. And i don’t disagree with giving them something to keep them entertained when out and about for a long time is a bad idea. But I believe that should be the exception not the rule at home. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙏

  15. My complaint about phones is that my husband calls me all day to tell me what’s going on at work then by the time he gets home he has nothing left to tell me. It’s nice to hear from him of course but it definitely leaves little to talk about when we sit down to eat dinner. Normally we sit in front of the tv and watch a “dinner show” together with the kids. Something that we wouldn’t watch any other time of the day. That’s kind of nice but still a distraction from our family’s lives. Normally precovid we were caught up in our kids sports which was a great thing but now we are so limited in activity that it’s hard to keep the conversation going.

  16. You have a broad background on table manners. Gives me a more reason to hold on to them because certainly they’re the least decency you could ever show at a dinner table.

    And everywhere when addressing someone.

  17. All well said, AP2.
    Table manners, and other manners such as “Please” and “Thank you” seem to have lost their places in most societies. We struggled with enforcing table manners, and especially in restaurants while waiting for our foods, when my kids were younger because though Mom (self) thought it was rude and means that one is/was not present, Dad thought that it was okay. I enforced it when he wasn’t around. I was perceived as the “harsher” parent for the enforcement and other similar good manners. Definitely no regrets for the perception.😊
    My daughters are now young adults and the older one now insist on no phone when eating together! What a turnaround, right?
    I believe that good manners are still essential. Thanks for the post and opening up conversation and awareness around the topic now becoming an issue.

    1. I believe having manners is about having respect for others. That can only be good for our kids. Amazing to hear about your daughter insisting on no phones at the table. You should be very proud. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 😊🙏

  18. I SO agree though, hypocritically, I am certain I’ve been the guilty party on occasion. I am newly remarried and part of this new life is wrapped up in a 13-year old step daughter. She’s great, she really is but she is also 13 and it’s 2021 so getting her off that dang phone is nigh impossible. But, with dinner and sitting at the table, we have set clear boundaries. We all leave our phones in another room. Same for game time. There is nothing more annoying than sitting down to play a game as a family and then having someone take 20 selfies in the process. We only have her every other weekend and I know her home life with her mom is very different. She is surrounded by her future step dad’s children and the house is chaotic. I don’t think anyone notices or cares that she is on her phone all the time. The adults probably think it’s a blessing – one less kid to entertain. I know that sounds harsh but it’s true and it puts us in a sticky situation because we’re now the phone police. And, for the matter, the manners police. I adore her father for how much he reminds her to say please and thank you but it feels like we’re running uphill, trying to undo the bad manners that are allowed in her life 80% of the time. It’s worth the effort though and we’ll keep at it! Thanks for your post!

    1. I believe it’s a tough job all parents have for that reason. But I also believe having those manners will position your step daughter well in future. I applaud your effort. Don’t for a second think it’s futile. It’s not. When she isn’t afraid to hold a conversation – to not feel the need to hide behind her phone. It’ll be worth it. Wishing you well 🙏

  19. You make an excellent point about smart phones at meals and in general. It’s an epidemic. I wrote and published a book about an anti-depressant that is literally a prescription for happiness. In actuality, the drug threatens to derail the evolution of human consciousness which leaves the door open for the forces of darkness to take control of humanity. The novel is more complex than that, but that’s the idea generally. Smart phones are threatening to play a similar role. I especially like the point you made about smart phones enabling us to hide from each other and ourselves.

    1. Hi David. Thanks you sharing your thoughts. I agree it’s an epidemic. It feels like this shared addiction that everyone is quietly ignoring. Your book sounds very interesting. I believe our smart phones remove us from our very reality. This has allowed the forces of evil to more easily manipulate the masses. As you say. Perhaps it’s not far fetched to say we need to get a handle on this addiction for the sake of our democracy and freedoms? Got me thinking 🤔. Thank you David. Wishing you well 🙏

  20. You took the words right out of my mouth AP. I have been guilty of this very behaviour more times than I would like to admit. But I am taking action to reverse the trend in my own life. I am actively leaving my phone in other rooms of our house when I am spending time with people – the message will wait until later, or the next day, or even later in the week. For most of the day at work I turn my cellphone onto flight mode (I don’t have a work cellphone thank goodness). At various points throughout the day I will do the same, putting my phone on flight mode so I can have dinner at the table, get lost in editing my book, or watch a game of football without distracting myself away.

    One of my favourite people in this world is a shining light in this regard. Whenever we spend time together I only see her phone after we’ve finished whatever we’re doing and she’s checking the bus timetable or getting in touch with a friend she’s meeting later. She has been a great example to learn from and I’m thankful of her subconscious encouragement to disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other.

    Thank you for this impressively thoughtful post and encouragement to have an open discussion about it. ❤

    1. Thanks Hamish – I’m sure it bugs many people. The truth is I write for my own sake – as a way to hold myself accountable. I am just as guilty as anyone. I too am trying much harder to work on getting this habit under control. Clear boundaries – no phone at the table or next to the bed at night are two of mine. I also leave my phone in another room during the day. That way if I need to check it I’m doing it deliberately and not mindlessly. It’s a learning curve for all of us I think. Thanks Hamish – wishing you well 🙏

      1. Thank you, my friend.

        We’re all works in progress, doing our best to figure things out, right? And though my opinion is just that, am opinion, I think you’re doing an admirable job of identifying areas of improvement, making changes where you can, and encouraging others too. Peace 🙏

  21. I’d be happy if people stay off their phone while they are in the table. If they want to check it or in case of emergency, they can be excused.

    Well, that’s is my two cents. Not may people think the way I do, imho.

    1. I agree with you! – the phone doesn’t ‘have’ to be checked at the table. The same way one doesn’t ‘have’ to go to the toilet at the table. If they have to pick up/check/reply to something on their phone, they can excuse themselves from the table to do it. Thanks for sharing your 2 cents worth 🙏

  22. Great post! Great thoughts. I’m 33, but have always been pretty old-school about technology. While I do love my iPhone—and iPad, and all the rest—I’m a firm believer in “a time and a place”. We all need screen-free moments. We need to experience awkward silence. We need to be fully present for others, and for ourselves. Thanks so much for this important reminder, friend. 🕊

    1. Same age as me Snap! I agree. I think in the modern age we have to make that time. Years ago it was easier to sit still – to find those spare moments. With our phones always by our sides the temptation to give in to impulse is much easier. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙏

  23. Great article. Raising kids these days is tough with technology…. we have always had a no phones at the table rule at our house. I thinks it’s healthy for families to set a no device time each night. Most of all as parents we need to set the example for our children and not be distracted and consumed ourselves.

  24. I absolutely agree. My sister does this when we have food together even when we’re out to eat and it’s so annoying and rude. My parents have banned her from having her iPad when she visits them.

    1. Thanks Art – Phones at the table is a bit of a bugbear of mine. Must be getting old 😂. Wishing you well 🙏

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