This App Can Make Dinner Way Better

Are you one of those folks who bemoans the fact that we're all so glued to our technology that we can't seem to put it down even at dinner time? Do you know that you do this yourself and wish you had something to help you break the habit? Good news: A new app called DinnerMode encourages us to disconnect from our smartphones during meals. And you know what? I actually think it's kind of great.

DinnerMode is the creation of tech innovator Sloane Davidson. After spending seven weeks last summer helping a friend who ran a farm through an incredibly difficult time, Davidson returned to New York to a shocking realization: We're on our phones all. The time. And while it's just sort of accepted as a way of life, she also realized that she wished it wasn't. DinnerMode is an attempt to break the cycle in an accessible and even enjoyable way.

As First We Feast points out, technically you don't even need the DinnerMode app to go into dinner mode — but having it makes the whole thing a lot more fun. It turns it into a game, and if there's one thing we know humans love, it's games. I suspect it has something to do with being goal-oriented and receiving tangible results at the end, but maybe that's just me.

As is the case with a lot of my favorite apps, DinnerMode's beauty is in its simplicity. All you have to do is select how long you want it active for:

And then place your phone face down on the table (or, really, on any flat surface — it definitely doesn't have to be the dinner table, but odds are that's the handiest location for most of us).

If you make it through the entire timer without lifting up your phone, you're greeted with the following cheerful message of congratulations:

But if you fail, you get a literal “womp womp”:

Or, I guess, a “whamp whamp” in this case, but you get what I mean. Sad trombones all round.

I couldn't help but see a few parallels with that strange and mysterious device known as the Dolmio Pepper Hacker. Both are intended to encourage people to connect with each other during mealtimes instead of with their electronic devices, and I think the intention for both is noble. However, there are a few key differences — and I think they're ones that matter quite a bit: First off, DinnerMode is available for purchase, while the Dolmio Pepper Hacker is a concept device only; and second — and perhaps most importantly — people who use DinnerMode are willing participants, while those upon whom the Pepper Hacker is unleashed have no say in the matter.

Especially given that the Pepper Hacker isn't an object you can actually acquire, this may seem like an inconsequential difference. But when it comes to changing deeply ingrained behaviors and habits, I think you're much more likely to succeed if it's something you're actively trying to accomplish — not being forced into by someone else. And even better, DinnerMode doesn't have to be a single player game, or even a PvP (player versus player) game — you can make the whole thing into a cooperative game wherein the goal is for the entire team to make it through the meal without lifting up their phone. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather focus on an issue like this from a positive point of view, rather than a negative one — and that's what DinnerMode enables.

DinnerMode is available for free in the iTunes app store, so head on over there to check it.

Images: Monika Clarke/Flickr; DinnerMode (4)