When hanging out, especially over drinks, it’s become a normal habit to simply pull your phone out and check it while someone is talking to you. We do it even though it’s rude, and even though we hate it when a friend does it to us. We can’t help ourselves, and it’s not our fault. The entire capitalist machine is trying to make us to look at our phones more. You can fight back with a little game.
The way the game goes is, when you hang out together, whoever first pulls their phone out has to immediately buy the next round of drinks.
It’s really just a rule, but a rule presented with sufficient enthusiasm is a game. If you’re not drinking, find an equivalent sacrifice. If you’re playing an actual game together, the phone-grabber loses a point or forfeits a turn. Or they have to make the next fridge run. Some tolerable but concrete sacrifice.
The Slow Scroll, a newsletter about breaking digital addictions, originally recommended this game as a dinner activity, with the loser picking up the entire bill for a group dinner. That seems too all-or-nothing. Maybe they have to cover a greater part of the bill instead.
It’s your call whether, once one person loses, everyone else gets to check their phones for free. But if you allow it, I suggest you also play the “phone time!” game: Everyone gets to check their phones for three minutes, and then they report the most interesting finding from their phone time. Or everyone has to pull up the best picture on their camera roll. This brings everyone back from “ignoring each other” mode to “talking to each other” mode.
An optional rule from the Slow Scroll is to stack all your phones together, but this feels a little too weird and exposed. It’s usually enough to propose the “buy the next round” rule. If everyone is constantly losing, then the phone stack can help you until you’ve all built up your self-control.