Here’s a fun number: The average American spends more than 10 hours a day staring at some kind of screen, according to a 2016 report from Nielsen. Frankly, that seems low, as the study came out before Donald Trump was elected president. Seeing as all we do now is track his tweets and watch cable TV and decide what is and isn’t fake news on our Facebook feeds, I bet that stat would look more like, I dunno, 21 hours a day in 2017.
I couldn’t find an up-to-date stat for Canadians’ screen usage, but our neighbors to the north are probably in the same ballpark, which is why one bar is nobly championing a potentially lost cause. Last week, Halifax’s Lion & Bright politely asked its patrons to put down their Kindles, tablets, iPads, and any other large electronic devices after 5 p.m., proclaiming the place to be a “screen-free” environment once happy hour hits.
Lion & Bright, which operates as a tech-friendly cafe for telecommuters during the day, wishes to foster a little more social interaction, according to the sign it recently left for unsuspecting customers. “Close your screens, meet your neighbours!” the sign reads, per a Facebook post.
In a follow-up interview with CTV News, Lion & Bright’s owner Sean Gallagher doubled down on his edict. “If you’re using a screen and you’re tapping away and you’re plugged into headphones, you’re closed off to the world,” he said. “We’re saying, at 5 p.m., now is the time to relax, connect with people, look people in the eye, share a drink, share your hopes for the future, talk about your work day, de-stress, and enjoy yourself.”
But Lion & Bright’s clientele evidently want none of those things, as Gallagher’s sign quickly sparked protests on social media. One Twitter user said, “I can manage my own device usage, be a social human being and engage with people on my own terms,” while another claimed that such a rule “really only works in Yuppie fantasy land, where your ‘sweet’ blogging career demands you have a Mimosa and relax at the end of the day.”
For starters, I can’t take anyone who has a Mimosa after 12 p.m. seriously, but more importantly, what’s so bad about this rule? Just like anyone, I’ll cop to using my phone once every few minutes—a terrible, albeit completely normal habit—and I could use someone to force me to be a little more present every once in awhile, because I sure as shit don’t have the self-discipline to start.
And Gallagher and co. aren’t even outlawing phones! They’re just suggesting that, hey, maybe you can tear yourself away from your work, or Instagram, or Netflix on your tablet for an hour to talk to a real, live human and enjoy a good craft beer or two.
Gallagher isn’t the only bartender who thinks such devices are killing our buzz. When I recently interviewed Maurizio Stocchetto, the owner of Milan’s world-famous Bar Basso, he admitted that the vibe of the bar isn’t quite as fun as it was 10 to 20 years ago, thanks to our precious screens.
“People now come right in and sit down and look at their phones at the bar,” Stocchetto told me. “Their conversations have changed. We have Wi-Fi, but you have to ask us for the password. We really don’t encourage you to use it,” he said.
So good on you, Lion & Bright. Keep fighting the good fight. I hope more drinking establishments follow their lead and more customers heed their advice.
And if nothing else, consider that slumping over to look at screens can wreck your neck, according to a study from the folks at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine: While your head weighs around 10 pounds, if you tilt it to 60 degrees, you’ll feel 60 pounds of force on your spine, per the research. No one likes a hunchback.