80% Respondents say Thanksgiving was More Meaningful Before Smart Phones
We're more connected than ever these days. But that's making it harder and harder to really, truly connect. This Thanksgiving, will you be fully present at your family dinner -- or will you be surreptitiously checking Instagram between bites of sweet potato pie?
"We're addicted to our phones," said Jonah Berger, a communications researcher and marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. "That doesn't make it OK to check them constantly and neglect our loved ones, but it does make it hard to stop."
The fact that it's Turkey Day doesn't make it any easier to go cold turkey. It does, however, make it arguably more important.
Berger partnered with Hershey's and Wakefield Research to conduct a survey of 1,000 adults about how they connect with their loved ones around the holidays. The results don't bode well for family bonding.
Over 80 percent of respondents said they think holiday gatherings were more meaningful before smartphones. And no wonder: While half of those surveyed said that the most meaningful communication with family and friends takes place during meals, more than a third admitted to checking their phones at the Thanksgiving dinner table. That number doubled among millennials.
The lure of the smartphone is intensified by the fact that it offers variable rewards. Often you get an email or an alert that isn't particularly interesting or important. But sometimes -- sometimes -- you get a text that cracks you up, or your fifteenth "like" on a photo, and the reward centers in your brain light up like a Christmas tree.
"You never know when an exciting email or a social media update is coming, so you keep checking your phone even more," Berger explained.
Kept at the table, cellphones divert attention from what's happening around us to what could be about to happen.
"Although no one is actively using it, this 'background tech' causes everyone to have, in the back of their minds, the anticipation that it can go off at any moment," writes clinical psychologist Jucy Jo Palladino in her book, "Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers."
She added that children notice the way their parents' attention is "tethered" to the phone.
"Children have antennae for hypocrisy," she wrote, and they learn through mimicry. This makes setting a good example important.
But we're not being the role models we should be. In the Hershey's study, 55 percent of parents who banned phone use by their children during the Thanksgiving meal admitted to texting or checking social media at the table themselves.
"Don't squander this precious time with TV, texting or any other electronic distraction," Palladino warned, referring to family mealtime. Her advice is all the more poignant on holidays, when you've all gone out of your way (battling traffic, sky-high plane ticket prices and hot ovens, no less) to be together.
So make a no-phones rule and stick to it.
Can't resist the urge? Physically remove the devices from your reach.
"Whenever I go on vacation, I ask my wife to hide my phone," Berger told CBS News. "It's tough for the first few hours, but it does become less tempting when you know you can't pick it up anytime you like."