How often do we find ourselves sitting at the dinner table with a group of friends and one, or all, of us is staring intently at a smartphone. It’s not so bad when everyone is looking at something together, or when everyone has come to a silent agreement that now is a time for scrolling, not talking. But when one person is disconnecting themselves from the group when you’re eating socially, you can’t help but feel a little resentful. It is admittedly kind of weird when you get an alert that someone has liked your Instagram photo from hours ago when they’re sitting right beside you eating dinner. I would happily take a verbal, “hey, I like that photo” over the increased number of digital likes.
People tend to act like this is an etiquette issue that has developed because of smartphones, but I disagree; growing up my brother and I were often told off for reading books or newspapers at the dinner table. We’re not suddenly ignoring each other more because of technology, we just have new ways to do it. That said, smartphones definitely haven’t helped the problem so IKEA in Taiwan have decided that they will.
To help us all disengage from our phones and engage with each other at the times it matters most, IKEA have developed a special hot pot table that’s powered by smartphones. Embedded into the table, the hot pot won’t work properly until everyone at the table has placed their smartphone on it. You can see it in action below:
The more phones placed on the hotplate, the more it heats up. The heat is enough for the food, but not hot enough to melt the phones, fortunately. You can actually see in the video that diners bothered by the fact that they can’t check their phones, and if anything having this table would perhaps positively call our own attention to the degree to which we rely on them. That said, placing my phone in an area where I can see I’m receiving notifications but can’t check them is torturous.
We’re not sure we’d like to rely on this table for all of our meals, and we certainly wouldn’t like to have to put it together with an Allen key, but for the occasional large meal it could be a good way to make everyone more social and actually pay attention to what they’re eating. Just don’t be surprised if we bring decoy phones. It’s to post that delicious dinner, we swear.