The Phonestacking Game and Our Addiction to Technology

by Kevin on July 7, 2012

What in the world is going on in the above photo and why does it matter?

What you’re looking at is a “phone stack”.

It’s what I see as an important social task that will grow in popularity in the coming years. It is all the rage in Silicon Valley.

But why? What is the purpose?

What is Phone Stacking?

Phone stacking is a social game that is played in groups that are eating out at a restaurant. Everyone puts their phone face down on the table in a stack like in the above image. The phones cannot be touched until the end of the meal when everyone is paid. If you can’t wait until everyone has paid — you hear your ringer or email notification and have to grab your phone — you pick up the tab for the entire table.

Having Real Communication with Real People

What’s the big deal?

It’s a test of your will to put technology aside and communicate with live human beings right in front of you for an hour or two.

As a society we are addicted to technology. It is constantly around us. We carry more processing and communication power in our pockets than was even possible a few decades ago.

But that technology has a danger. You go to a restaurant and see a couple or a group of friends… not communicating, but staring into the digital abyss in their hands.

No eye contact. No real communication. Just tapping away.

We miss out on so many opportunities to really connect with someone, or a group of people, when we’re just staring away at our phones. And don’t even get me started on wearable computers like Google’s Project Glass. Eesch!

What Does Phone Stacking Have to Do with Money?

So why am I writing about phone stacking? Other than finding it interesting, it does have something to do with your finances.

Financial Cost

First there is the financial cost. The next time you go out with your friends, try it. See if you can put down your super connectivity for an hour and a half. If you can’t, you’ll pay a high price just to see that cat photo your BFF just posted on Facebook.

Networking Cost

Another huge aspect that can impact your finances is the lack of networking that happens when you’re staring at your phone. Are you at a business lunch? Did you just insult the person you’re eating with by not giving them your full attention?

Or maybe you missed seeing the person walk in that you met a few weeks back. You meant to schedule a follow up call, but never did. You could grab him to schedule something now… but you don’t because you never see him walk in the door.

Emotional Cost

Being connected to people through devices rather than connected to people who are sitting right in front of you can, in my opinion, drastically change the depth of your relationship. Imagine sitting back for a few hours laughing with a friend without the distractions of your phone beeping at you. Imagine spending that time with your spouse in a quiet cafe sharing coffee, just having a nice conversation.

Instead we choose the cheap, shallow way out. We sit down together, we talk a bit, but end up spending the rest of the time showing LOLing and Haha!ing on social media… when the truest social media is right in front of us.

(Photo by brixton via Flickr)


Golfing Girl July 7, 2012 at 7:57 pm

I am saddened that people can’t follow common courtesy anymore and have an uninterrupted meal with friends. The only time I leave my phone on is when I leave my kids behind and must be accessible to the sitter. I guess I’m old fashioned (or just plain old at 36) when I am deeply offended when someone I’m talking to is sending and receiving texts while I’m talking to them. I guess I’m practically Amish since I have texting blocked on my phone. If you want to talk to me, you actually have to “talk” to me. 🙂

Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter July 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I would totally never pay a bill again, woot! I love my phone, I love email, and I use text daily, BUT I do not check my phone during meals with others. I totally want to play this game next time we all eat out!

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