Is it a no-brainer that we should be socialising without the distraction of technology? Or do these 2019 times justify their use at all waking hours?
Samuel Smith pub chain has just become the first in the UK to ban mobile phones. This ban does not just apply to talking on phones, it also extends to laptops and tablets and aims to encourage social conversation person to person. The pub chain has more than 200 outlets, mostly in the North of England.
This means that, in these pubs, you can no longer show your mate the Airbnb you just booked for a weekend away, the shoes you got in the sale or laugh together at a passive aggressive email you received from a boss. Often, these things spark conversation. Phones can often be used to contribute positively to social discussions in this way.
Is this new ban justified? Some may argue that the pub can enforce what they like within their own premises, there are plenty of alternatives to visit if customers do not like the new expected behaviour.
With this ban, those receiving phone calls are treated just like smokers and are expected to vacate the premises to talk on the phone. Now, of course smokers are expected to do this due to the effect of second-hand smoke on non-smokers. But is it fair to make those taking phone calls go outside with them? Are they posing a health threat on the others?
Some may argue that those talking loudly on the phone can be a huge distraction when you are trying to wind down and enjoy your pint. You are minding your own business, socializing and in good conversation when that person on the table next to you starts having a deafening argument with their partner on the phone. We are not being unreasonable to find these one-sided conversations irritating, this has actually been proven to be incredibly distracting (Emberson et al., 2010).
Can distracting people be compared to imposing a health risk upon them?
Now, this distraction may not be the reason for the ban. Whatever it is, this ban does seem like a violation of free will. If someone wants to spend an evening at the pub with a friend glued to their phone, then that is their choice, is it not?
Perhaps this ban could be more justified in a restaurant, an environment which is traditionally more formal than the nature of a pub which can often be associated with being rowdy, loud and people doing whatever the hell they want.
Will this ban even be enforced? And more importantly, how will it be? Only time will tell.
Promoting good old conversation does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, it is likely that there are only good intentions behind this decision.
What about business? Companies often make decisions in favour of whatever will increase the number of punters and revenue. This ban may increase support from those against the excessive use of technology. However, those hoping to catch up on a few emails and likely the younger crowd, may be tempted to go elsewhere. Nevertheless, the nature of this chain as a traditional, Victorian-themed brewery may mean that the ban is right on trend.
Amusingly, the chain’s website recommends sending post as a means of contacting the company with enquiries. Or perhaps to discourage them, in this case.