Using a field experiment and experience sampling, we found the first evidence that phone use may undermine the enjoyment people derive from real world social interactions. In Study 1, we recruited over 300 community members and students to share a meal at a restaurant with friends or family. Participants were randomly assigned to keep their phones on the table or to put their phones away during the meal. When phones were present (vs. absent), participants felt more distracted, which reduced how much they enjoyed spending time with their friends/family. We found consistent results using experience sampling in Study 2; during in-person interactions, participants felt more distracted and reported lower enjoyment if they used their phones than if they did not.
This research suggests that despite their ability to connect us to others across the globe, phones may undermine the benefits we derive from interacting with those across the table.