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Are Our Lives Taken Over by Social Media?

A recent article we encountered revealed a shocking truth about how impacted we are by social media. A restaurant in New York, who has been around for a long time, noticed that the average amount of time spent by their customers at their establishment has increased over the last decade, which ultimately make more customers complain about slow service and the long waiting time to get a table. They were perplexed, as they didn’t suspect their properly trained staff, or their cut down menu to have been the causes. So they hired a firm to get to the bottom of things.

As the place has been equipped with CCTV surveillance since its start, the firm decided to retrieve and study the footage of the establishment from past years. They analysed all of them, but only needed to study one video from a decade ago and compare it to a recent one in order to identify the cause.

It turns out that back in 2004, the customers were seen spending less time on their mobile devices compared to now, where most people are occupied with capturing and updating moments on social media. For instance, what they saw was that before even opening the menu, some customers would take their phones out to take photos while some others are doing something else on their phone; and when the waiter comes to take orders, the majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait. The flow goes on with other instances where customers spend more time on their phones instead of actually focusing on having a dine-in experience; hence, the increase in service time.

Considering the popularity of mobile social media began to take stage in middle 00s, the impact of its presence became prevalent over time, and it has manifested itself into our everyday routine, which includes time spent patronising a restaurant.

Most of us can’t deny that we have a strong need to be connected to our friends and families. We want to share our moments, stories, and information; like the food we eat, our dine-in experience, the menu and location of the restaurant; just so that we can keep the connections alive. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, but we somehow need to think about how our need to be ordinary citizen journalists engrossed by information sharing has implications far greater than just that of the regular updates we send out.

More time is spent to converse via phone with people far from us, than conversing in real time with people who are near us. More time is spent establishing our presence on social media, than actually getting crucial work done. More time is spent shouting out to the world about our adorable kids, than actually spending good quality time with them (by good quality I mean uninterrupted by technology). More time is spent sharing vain selfies with people who don’t not even care, than actually improving one’s character.

Previously we were a focused set of individuals, accompanied by low number of distractions; so low that we were always in the moment. Now, we are bombarded with a barrage of relevant and irrelevant news and social feeds on our portable toys, playing tug of war with our attention as the rope. From these observations, a question arisen, are our lives taken over by social media? Only we, who are creators and consumers of social media, can answer that.

For those who are curious about the analysis of time difference at the restaurant in New York, check out the details shared from below.


This was the average situation back in 2004.

- Customers walk in.

- They get seated and are given menus, out of 45 customers 3 request to be seated elsewhere.
- Customers on average spend 8 minutes before closing the menu to show they are ready to order.
- Waiters show up almost instantly takes the order.
- Appetizers are fired within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take longer.
- Out of 45 customers 2 sent items back.
- Waiters keep an eye out for their tables so they can respond quickly if the customer needs something.
- After guests are done, the check delivered, and within 5 minutes they leave.
- Average time from start to finish: 1:05.
But wait until you see the average time for 2014.

- Customers walk in.
- Customers get seated and are given menus, out of 45 customers 18 requested to be seated elsewhere.
- Before even opening the menu they take their phones out, some are taking photos while others are simply doing something else on their phone (sorry we have no clue what they are doing and do not monitor customer WIFI activity).
- 7 out of the 45 customers had waiters come over right away, they showed them something on their phone and spent an average of 5 minutes of the waiter’s time. Given this is recent footage, we asked the waiters about this and they explained those customers had a problem connecting to the WIFI and demanded the waiters try to help them.
- Finally the waiters are walking over to the table to see what the customers would like to order. The majority have not even opened the menu and ask the waiter to wait a bit.
- Customer opens the menu, places their hands holding their phones on top of it and continue doing whatever on their phone.
- Waiter returns to see if they are ready to order or have any questions. The customer asks for more time.
- Finally they are ready to order.
- Total average time from when the customer was seated until they placed their order 21 minutes.
- Food starts getting delivered within 6 minutes, obviously the more complex items take way longer.
- 26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.
- 14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.
- 9 out of 45 customers sent their food back to reheat. Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phone the food wouldn’t have gotten cold.
- 27 out of 45 customers asked their waiter to take a group photo. 14 of those requested the waiter retake the photo as they were not pleased with the first photo. On average this entire process between the chit chatting and reviewing the photo taken added another 5 minutes and obviously caused the waiter not to be able to take care of other tables he/she was serving.
- Given in most cases the customers are constantly busy on their phones it took an average of 20 minutes more from when they were done eating until they requested a check. Furthermore once the check was delivered it took 15 minutes longer than 10 years ago for them to pay and leave.
- 8 out of 45 customers bumped into other customers or in one case a waiter (texting while walking) as they were either walking in or out of the Restaurant.
- Average time from start to finish: 1:55.
That makes it an extra 50 minutes all because of the customers spending more time on their phone! This to me serves as a really sad reminder of the digital age and how we are spending less time connecting in reality and more time on our phones.

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