Maria Shriver wants people to get off their phones and talk: ‘People don’t even look up’

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Over the summer, I wrote about an interview that Rumer Willis did with HuffPost. She mentioned both appreciating Quentin Tarantino’s no-phone rule on set, and how her mother, Demi Moore, has banned phones at the dinner table (but often caves to check hers). Another celebrity mother who has instituted the same rule is Maria Shriver:

When Maria Shriver hosts dinner for her family every Sunday, she has one rule — no phones at the table.

All the scrolling, she says, is just a distraction from having to actually look each other in the eye and have a conversation about how we’re really feeling. And it’s making us sick.

“People can sit down and find common subjects, find common ground,” Shriver tells CNN, adding, “I’m a big believer that we’re in desperate need as a country to find things that we can talk about, then we can listen and form relationships. Everybody’s obsessed with their phone. Loneliness, anxiety, depression, trauma, all these things, I think, is coming from the lack of talking.”

The journalist, author and mom to Christina, Patrick, Christopher and Katherine Schwarzenegger, who she shares with ex-husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been including conversation starters in her newsletter for a couple of years, and says “there’s no substitute for the human connection.”

“I get in an elevator and people don’t even look up,” she says. “There’s no denying that is all coinciding with these epidemics of anxiety and loneliness across generations. We’re technically connected, but we’re not connected.”

[From CNN]

I agree with Maria about the problem of spending more time on our phones than chatting with people, to a certain extent. As an introvert, it’s very easy for me to get sucked into the work that I’m doing, or using the phone to interact with people via social media, email, or texting rather than spending time together. And, as an introvert who needs to recharge, I often don’t have the energy to be “on” all the time with people in person. My phone (or computer) is a great way to stay connected. So, I think the issue is about finding a balance and not completely neglecting face-to-face interaction, but for everyone, that amount of time is different.

Maria’s blanket statement, “Loneliness, anxiety, depression, trauma, all these things, I think, is coming from the lack of talking” really annoys me. No. Anxiety and depression are mental illnesses. Trauma is caused by someone or something. Can a lack of talking exacerbate loneliness and mental illness? Can it make trauma more difficult to cope with? Absolutely. But the lack of talking doesn’t actually cause those conditions.

I think it’s fine if Maria wants to work on a project that fosters human connection. I love the people whom I have chosen to surround myself with, and they make my life infinitely richer and happier. And I think it’s fine to address the ways that technology can hamper interactions. But if she’s going to start talking about the serious topic of mental health (which is worth talking about), I hope that she’s more thoughtful and responsible in how she chooses to talk about it. I’ve already said in other posts that there’s a lot of stigma around mental illness, so anyone who is going to be talking about mental health publicly needs to do so with care. Putting down your phone isn’t going to make your anxiety, your depression, your loneliness, your trauma go away, because your phone isn’t actually the “thing” causing it.

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20 Responses to “Maria Shriver wants people to get off their phones and talk: ‘People don’t even look up’”

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  1. Oatmeal says:

    She looks half dead in the photo with the Jean jacket. Yikes.

  2. Ye says:

    Blabla boomer talk.

    I’m using my phone to talk to people ma’am.

  3. N says:

    Those issues are absolutely exacerbated by lack of communication but I wish people would do more thorough research and deliver educated instead of blanketed statements.
    My family and friends also adopted the no phone zone for family gatherings, dinner, etc.

  4. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I don’t trust anyone who lumps everything under a blanket of their choosing. They’re simply self-advocating, and I’m not interested in that. :P

    Do we tech too much? Sure. Do we eat, drink and destroy our bodies too often? Um…yes. Do we buy too much? Complain? Do we (insert anything at all here) to much? I’m a bonafide introvert. If I have an outing with friends or whatever, I literally have to prepare beforehand and decompress following with alone time. It’s weird. I’m weird. But I love tech, and sitting at a noisy, nosy, busy dinner table gives me a massive headache. I’m old enough to know that six or seven times out of ten, things will get tense. Or argumentative. And trust me, if I’m within hearing distance of a conversation about genius douche, game over. Maria is lonely and needy. She’s lived a certain life, and that works for her. Good on her. I might be inclined to chat a bit had I not sweated a half gallon cooking and preparing dinner. Guess who gets to clean up? Pfft. Rich people. So clueless.

  5. Valerie says:

    She sort of has a point. I’ve noticed sometimes that I’ll be having an actual conversation with someone while looking at my phone, and having a conversation with someone else! Tying it to depression and anxiety, no. Not as a root cause.

  6. Audrey says:

    Obviously, her blanket statement is questionable, but she has a point. I walk around the city and everyone is heads down in their phones. There is much less human to human contact these days. One of my favorite things to do when travelling is to hang out in airport bars. In the 90s, everyone would be talking to each other and I met so many interesting people from around the country and world. Now, everyone is nose deep in their phones and miss the opportunity to connect.

    Safety Note: People walking around the city nose deep in their phones are very ripe targets for assaults and muggings…

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      Your last para is very true – I see near misses on the London Underground on a daily basis. People are too glued to their phones that they are not watching where they are going and quickly find themselves close to the edge of the platform when a train is approaching. Its the same on the street, people walking along texting or whatever and they end up stepping on the road. Fortunately I haven’t witnessed anything yet but its been close on too many occasions to count.

      There as a case here in the UK recently where a pedestrian who was on her phone crossing the road when it wasn’t safe for her to do so (the ‘green man’ was red) and she got hit by a cyclist and ended up with concussion. She sued the cyclist even though she was at fault as she was too busy texting to pay attention to crossing the road safely. There were several witness who backed up the cyclist who said he wasn’t going fast and braked hard to stop himself. The guy didn’t have insurance and didn’t counter sue her so he got stuck with a massive legal bill and she gets a nice payout from him – she so far has refused to take responsibility for her actions. claiming she can’t remember the incident but she could clearly remember enough to sue him.

  7. Coco says:

    Can we id her earrings?

  8. minx says:

    Yikes, too many fillers.

  9. lucy2 says:

    She’s got a point on some of the stuff. The phones are great in a lot of ways, but it is kind of sad to see a bunch of people out to dinner and all just staring at their phones and not engaging with each other. And it has made people more reckless when moving about in the world – driving, biking, walking.

    I have a family member who has been an educator for a long time, and is extremely well educated and well versed in childhood development and learning, and she is noticing a real difference in how kids interact, both with each other and adults, compared to even a decade ago. It’s not great.

  10. severine says:

    Her face! So bloated and puffy. Is it fillers or a facelift? She needs a different color eye shadow. She looks sickly.

  11. Sam says:

    I get so tired of hearing Boomers (and elder gen x-ers) complain about “the younger generation always on their phones”. One particular conversation I had with my dad stands out in my mind. He was lamenting that he was in a waiting room and “there were magazines and newspapers everywhere but they just kept staring at their phone when they could have been using that time constructively”. I had to explain to him that time spent looking at a screen CAN BE constructive and that they were just as likely reading a newspaper column as scrolling twitter.

    I understand there is something to be said for being present when you are with family, friends, loved ones. But complaining that no one looked up when you walked onto an elevator? I’m very sorry you weren’t the center of their world that day. People on an elevator are not obligated to smile and coo over you.

    Basically anytime I hear someone complain about people being on their phones in public, I can’t help it. I recoil.

  12. OuiMelissa says:

    I refuse to comment on people’s appearances, and I don’t understand why this woman is being insulted for how she looks.

    I spend quite a bit of time on my phone, but a good portion of that is browsing, listening to sermons and prayers, and watching tv shows and movies, I have enough human interaction in my daily life that when I get to spend quiet time alone with my phone, I’m immensely grateful. The joy of being an introvert.

    • severine says:

      That’s great. The reason many of us comment on people’s appearances is because it is called “Celebitchy”. Looks, style, etc. are all up for discussion.

  13. holly hobby says:

    We were once at a restaurant and 4 college aged women came in. They got a table across from us. Now you’d think since they were together, they’d converse but nope they all whipped out their phones and started texting etc. Then why bother to go out with friends? I’ve seen this with families too.

    I don’t let my kids haul out their phones during meal time. Sorry no you have to talk. When I managed the other kids for school events, I told them my number one rule when they are working was “to put away the phones.” Sorry if you are volunteering and doing something the phone should be out of sight.

    Don’t get me started on kids writing English papers using text shorthand…