Many have called Pope Francis a “Pope of the People” or “The People’s Pope”, due in no small part to his way of doing things. and he recently took the opportunity during a November 11th sermon at St. Peter’s Square to share his thoughts on tech at the table:

“A family that almost never eats together, or that never speaks at the table but looks at the television or the smartphone, is hardly a family.”

He then added that,

“When children at the table are attached to the computer or the phone and don’t listen to each other, this is not a family, this is a pensioner!”

The comments came during his preaching on the subject of togetherness, of which he stressed the dinner table is a critical part of the family structure:

“Sitting at table for the family dinner, sharing our meal and the experiences of our day, is a fundamental image of togetherness and solidarity…in the family, if something is wrong, or if there’s some hidden wound, at the table you see it right away.”

The “new” television

While people are free to have their own opinions as to the comments raised above, at the very least there is a point that can be made about technology at the dinner table serving as a distraction. Television, once viewed as an “end” to families due to its distracting influence and the creation of a “TV dinner” society, has seemingly been supplanted by mobile technology.

The situation was also the underscore of a recent South Park episode that sought to point out how kids in the 21st century are now spending copious amounts of time on their computers or mobiles as opposed to even the television.

On a personal level, tech-at-the-table can be seen every time I go to a family restaurant (diner) here in Tokyo. Inevitably there will be at least one instance of either a parent and child who aren’t talking – usually because the child is on a 3DS or mobile phone game, or else an entire table of kids, none of whom are talking because they’re all playing Monster Hunter or another online game via Ad-Hoc.

Recently we have seen studies that indicate how addicted people are to their mobiles, and some may have dealt with texting or “Facebook Breaks” during dates. That Pope Francis sees a problem with table texting adds another form of scrutiny on the modern behaviors of the digital denizen.