We live in a culture where being alone has become almost impossible. The ever-increasing populations of Metro Manila aside, the Philippines is known to be one of the most social media-connected countries in the world. With an extensive list of family, workmates, friends, friends-of-friends, and your cousin’s ex who you should probably delete off your friends list but don’t want to be rude, all connected to you through the touch of a button—or is it more apt to say the press of a finger onto a digital image of a button on a touchscreen?—it is tempting at times of physical or mental solitude to send a message. But I wonder if we simply use it as a distraction instead of authentic interaction?
The buzzing and flashing of smartphones have become white noise in any eatery. It’s hardly considered rude or strange to have your phone with you at the dining table, whether to communicate, take photos, or scroll through photos of Tiny Trump and trying not to laugh your soda out of your nostrils. But perhaps in our desire to connect with others, document our lives, or stay updated on the latest within the zeitgeist, we lose the precious magic that comes with enjoying a meal: hearing the crunch of a salad, smelling the char off a freshly grilled cut of beef, feeling the velvet texture of a puréed potato.
Distracted eating can pose a health risk. People tend to overeat when they multitask: munching while working or watching a movie drives us to lose track of the food we mindlessly stuffing our faces with. We end up doing eating as a reflex instead of a conscious choice.
But beyond physical health, there is something to be said about eating out alone, and enjoying a truly satisfying meal in a beautiful ambiance with good service—and that means being disconnected from a device too. Without the distraction of a device or even a book, we are forced with being aware of the present. Though painful to some, the skill of getting used to it can deliver some insight.
Eating out alone brings in a sense of mindfulness to the practice of eating, which allows us to become fully aware of our plate and the flavors that it holds. It encourages us to savor each bite, and makes you more conscious of the food we consume. It can teach us to appreciate the quiet and the solitude, and learn to enjoy our own company—because in the end, the one person we have the learn to live with the most is ourselves.