GetKempt had a story this week about a new dinner challenge that's a test of will and stamina. Think quarters, but less eye-hand coordination.
It's called "phone stacking," and it requires everyone, at, say, a dinner party or happy hour, to relinquish their cellulars to the middle of the table and leave them there for the duration of the meal. Be it a game, mandate, stress-test or perhaps welcome relief, it seeks to quell the shit-storm of social media-induced rudeness we've collectively adopted, putting technology ahead of good company.
All rings, dings, beeps, quacks, and blinks are to go unanswered. Taunting you. Laughing at you. Frolicking in the joy of knowing who has done what, where, when and how, while you -- lonely, little you -- must sit amongst friends and focus on them only.
That catch in phone stacking is that the first person to pick up their phone has to buy dinner for everyone else.
A few days after the GetKempt article ran, writer Russell Brandom addressed a few objections to the concept of phone stacking. One repeated plea was, "My job requires me to be on call 24 hours a day."
"No it doesn't; you just like to say that," wrote Brandom.
Checking my phone constantly is an absolutely shameless habit. My phone blinks. And I love its blinking. But that blink can also be like a headlock. Fire alarms, cross walk signals and fallen down old ladies get less attention than that blink.
A while back I was at Oak and noticed soon after arriving that every person down the long bar to my right and left was passing bits and bites with a swipe of their forefinger. My own power game ensued. Should I be a renegade and just sit there and do nothing?
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No phone for me, I decided. But, then no one noticed because they were all too busy with texting and browsing. They don't have TVs at Oak, and I got pretty bored pretty quick, which is one reason phones are so handy.
Phones can be shields sometimes, too. They help us avoid conversations and interacting when we specifically don't want to for whatever reason.
But it's one thing when we're passing time or shielding ourselves, another when we're at dinner with friends, which is what phone stacking was built for. Does the urge to check your email trump the friends sitting in front of you? Will a blinking light work your nerves like a termite in wood, gnawing at you until you slap plastic on the table and yell, "I'm out! Dinner's on me!"
I can't wait to stack.