Is TV triumphing over conversation in modern life?

Washington: It’s often said that getting the whole brood around the dining table is an important way to nurture a tightly knit family. Beyond health and nutrition, it provides a valuable opportunity to reconnect.

However, people nowadays are more interested in tuning in to television rather than chatting during mealtime - a trend that is not so healthy, according to a Southeastern Louisiana University sociologist.

The breaking away from traditional behaviours at the dinner table to watch television has left some, like David Burley, concerned.

“The trend is especially evident when eating out at restaurants,” said David Burley.

“It’s rare to walk into a sit-down restaurant and not see a television in some corner playing ESPN, CNN or some other televised program,” he added.

He noted the oddity of restaurants striving for uniqueness to attract customers, while maintaining this trait.

“We lose a lot when we are busy staring at the television, and one of those things is an appreciation for the food we are eating,” he added.

Burley cites Michael Pollan, author of ‘In Defense of Food’, who claims that eating together is where we first learn democratic principles.

“The dinner table is where many of us learn the art of conversation and basic levels of politeness, knowing when to speak and when to listen,” he said.

Burley said watching TV makes people eat more than when conversing with others.

“This is not a good practice in a society that has a growing obesity epidemic, as well as dramatic rises in obesity-related diseases like Type 2 Diabetes,” he added.

While having a television in a restaurant or eating around the TV does not cause obesity, it certainly is not helping the cause, he said.

It is the mindfulness of what, how much, and how fast we are eating that is hampered.

“We tend to eat more slowly and less when we dine and interact with others as opposed to eating alone, which we are very likely to do while watching television,” said Burley.

“Our bodies digest food and extract nutrients more when we eat slowly. It’s simply healthier to eat with others without watching a screen,” he added.