Want Some Free Food? Just Leave Your Smartphone at the Door

Salvatore’s, an Italian restaurant with five locations around Boston, is starting “Off the Grid Mondays”, beginning this Monday, Oct. 20. According to the post on Salvatore’s website, guests can receive two entrees for the price of one. The only catch is that they must leave their phones with the host when they enter the restaurant. Everyone in the party must agree to participate, and all devices will be returned at the end of the meal.

The promotion is available at all Salvatore’s restaurants on Mondays from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Boston.com’s Kara Baskin wrote about the new initiative asking, “Are we mere children, Pavlovian supplicants who require bribery with free food in order to shed technology and interact like civil human beings? (The answer is likely “yes”).”

Baskin goes on to say that “Maybe it’ll be a chance for people to actually focus on their surroundings instead of Instagramming their linguine.” This makes me wonder how often I have been guilty of the same sin?

I’m fairly new to the world of smartphones and instagram. I only got my first smartphone this past summer. Up until then, I really almost saw it as a point of pride that I hadn’t succumbed to the popular obsession with this technology. And now that I have it, I still try to convince myself that I would be fine without it and that I’m “not that bad.” Most of us do this.

I was reading an article by Jenna Wortham for The New York Times (and yes, I read it online, though not on my phone) about this very issue of smartphone usage each day. Wortham discusses her own phone usage and admits, “I’m as guilty as anyone of using my phone as a crutch, either to avoid talking to people I don’t know at a party, or to stave off boredom while waiting for a friend in a bar.”

For Salvatore’s, the issue has expanded beyond avoiding strangers, to avoiding our friends and family: “owner Sal Lupoli approved the idea [for Off the Grid Mondays] after a manager told him that customers ‘were literally not speaking to each other while dining,'” said the article on Boston.com.

Wortham’s article also suggests several different apps, such as Moment and Checky, that can be used to monitor daily phone usage and cites several studies indicating that higher phone usage led to greater dissatisfaction with life and more stress.

Kevin Holesh, the creator of Moment, “believes that having access to data about phone use can help people adjust their habits,” said Wortham’s article.

Maybe lunch at Salvatore’s is a small way to work on a smartphone addiction and focus on improving human connections. And even if the reach isn’t that large, it’s a small step in the right direction.

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