The current age bracket for the millennial generation is roughly 18-34. That means the youngest millennials are just coming home for their first college break, and the oldest are either toting kids and a spouse to their ancestral home or deflecting questions about why they aren't. What we all have in common are our smartphones. We spend just shy of 15 hours a week hammering away on them. And according to recent research from Eventbrite and Harris Interactive, 64 percent of us believe we should leave them charging in another room during special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner.
Eventbrite is hoping to encourage young people to avoid glares from Grandma this holiday season with ditchyourphone.com. (According to their research, she feels the most strongly about this issue: 85 percent of women over 65 want to ban your phone from the table.) The site has screenshots of potential texts (replete with emoji, of course) you can send to people to let them know you'll be MIA from your social networks — at least until the dishes are done.
Michelle Masek heads up Consumer Insights for Eventbrite. She said while they were doing this research on phone use and the holidays, millennials over-indexed on two factors: Believing phones should be put away during special events and admitting that they check theirs during them.
"There's some hypocrisy with this generation: We want to live in the moment but we aren't doing it," Masek told Fusion.
Believing in one thing and then doing another is a tradition that certainly predates Thanksgiving and smartphones. So are we just flat-out failing to practice what we preach, or is there more happening when we use our phones in close proximity to the cranberry sauce?
Kelsea Jones recently moved to San Diego for her fiance's job in the Navy. Her family is on the East Coast; this is the first Thanksgiving she will spend away from them. I asked her if she would be willing to give up her phone over Thanksgiving.
"I would rather throw myself off a cliff," she laughed. She said she'll mostly be using it to stay in touch. "I take photos, I call people. … I'm not a big Facebook person, but I'll post a photo on Facebook so people who are far away can see we're all together."
But she says she realizes some people use their phone to shield themselves from what happening around them instead of celebrating it.
"If you're in a place in your life where everything you need is in front of you, the people that you care about are right there, and you're using your phone to distract yourself, yeah, look at yourself, look at your choices," Jones said." But millennials are transient; our jobs are dragging us all over the country. [Using your phone] is not a way to separate from the people around you, it's a way to connect with them, whether it's your family or friends who you don't live close to."
In some cases, smartphone apps are the only way people can stay in contact with their families. Megan Cleavely is 28 and is 15 months into a two-year teaching contract in Egypt. I asked her if she could talk on the phone for this story and she said it's been a while since she's had a clear phone call. Mostly, she texts people with WhatsApp or Viber and updates Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram to keep her family in Canada in the loop. She said because of the distance, using her phone is extra important to her over the holidays.
"I won't be going to Canada over the Christmas holidays this year and I definitely will be using my phone in a big way to keep in touch," Cleavely said via e-mail. "I expect I'll be sharing a lot of photos and using Viber and Whatsapp to keep in touch constantly throughout the holidays."
Eventbrite's Masek said despite the "ditch your phone" name, they aren't expecting people to lock their iPhone in a safe for the next week. They just want people to use discretion.
"We're saying, you know, prowling your Facebook news feed can wait. Checking your texts can wait. Googling random things can wait," Masek said. "Don't use your phone your phone as a bodyguard for these events."