Are we still sitting down to eat together?

France is number one in the world when it comes to spending time at the dinner table. But will the encroaching use of smartphones during meals, special diets, and shorter mealtimes sound the death knell for this important time dedicated to social bonding?

This is one of the questions asked by Usbek & Rica as the magazine explores what might happen in the future. Meals taken together — whether as a family, with friends, or as part of a business lunch — are an institution in many countries, with France leading the way (2 hours 11 minutes a day spent eating and drinking, twice as much time as in the US), closely followed by Italy.

But is this institution being eaten away by the impact of advances in digital technology, changes in society, and the accelerated pace of life in general? First, let’s look at screen addiction: did you know that one in three people in France use their smartphones at the dinner table? What can we do to ensure that mealtimes remain a cocoon-like space for social bonding: should things evolve as they do in Years and Years1 or should smartphones be banned outright? Then there are the growing number of diets that mean that meals are divided up into a wide variety of specific dietary needs. Finally, as noted in the book Les Alimentations particulières2, we’re taking our meals alone more and more often — at the office, while walking, in town. It would seem, therefore, that our accelerated pace is leading to a heightened disconnect between technical progress and human progress, and even the time spent sitting at table will be accelerated — or rather, abbreviated.

 

To go further: “Le repas comme lien social va-t-il disparaître?” (Usbek & Rica, December 2019)

 

1. British television series by Russel Davies, 2019.
2. Les alimentations particulières, by Claude Fischler (Odile Jacob, 2013).