Advice | November 22, 2019 4:20 pm

The Only Thing You Need to Bring to Thanksgiving Is a Faraday Pouch

Your family gathering needs a smartphone intervention

Thanksgiving dinner and Faraday pouch
OK, bring the stuffing and a Faraday pouch from Silent Pocket.
Silent Pocket / Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

I have a bad habit of thinking my friends are dead. No, not like Haley Joel Osment. You know what I’m talking about: when you text friends or family and they don’t respond quickly, there’s a little voice in your head that assumes the worst. Maybe they got in a car accident, maybe they were mugged, maybe you should text everyone connected to the missing person to see if they’ve heard anything. And then your friend or family member texts you back, and everything is fine. 

Except it’s not fine, is it? Smartphone addiction is a very real problem — as evidenced by our Pavlovian response to notifications, whether it’s texts or emails or likes. But you already know all that, and you’re still glued, getting carpal tunnel syndrome by smashing the “Ignore Limit” button anytime the Time Limit screen pops up. And now that the holiday season is upon us, this problem is about to manifest itself into the most egregious example, like Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come. 

I’m talking about the Thanksgiving family gathering, which in recent years has become the Thanksgiving family smartphone hootenanny. Sure, previous generations have had their new technologies that suck the attention of kids and teens (I remember programming my new iPod on the drive to my grandparents’ house one year), but now it’s not even a younger person problem. Aunts are carefully maneuvering their clip-on nails to scroll through photos of babies and reunions. Grandkids are trying to get their grandparents to say “OK, Boomer” for TikTok. Fathers-in-law are trying to prove themselves by showing off their Tesla apps. And the rest of us are either composing the perfect scene for maximum Instagram interaction or live-tweeting questionable conversations. And when it’s all over, you still don’t know exactly what grade your little cousins are in.

We’ve reached a tipping point, people, and from where I’m standing there is only one solution. Turning your phone on silent, turning it off or keeping it in your coat pocket — these are no longer viable options (and not bringing it along is not realistic). When we can’t keep our smartphones at bay for the sake of family through sheer force of will, then we, like children with toys, must remove the temptation. We must put them in a Faraday pouch.

A Fara-what? A Faraday shield is an electromagnetic-wave blocker named after its inventor Michael Faraday and used in everything from microwaves to power plants. But more recently it’s been adopted by people looking to disconnect from technology — in the form of pouches that block signals to your smartphone when placed inside. I recently came across one in a winter parka from Askov Finlayson, which they include as a way to totally silence your phone in the outdoors while also keeping it nearby in case you actually need it. And my first thought was: I need to give these out as early Christmas gifts to my entire family. (I understand the sadness of that statement, that’s why I’m writing this.)

By placing your smartphone in a compartment that blocks all signals, you won’t be lured back to it by ringing, beeping or any other notifications. And by making the conscious effort to take its attention-sucking power away, you’ll be more likely to leave it in the coat room, rather than absent-mindedly turning it back on in your pocket or rushing back to it just in case you missed an important call or Instagram DM (which, of course, is never the case). To make lifestyle changes, you have to be intentional, and like your trainer at the gym, a Faraday pouch is an effective way to hold yourself accountable.

That said, please don’t be the person who forces everyone else to give up their phones during Thanksgiving. That’s not the way to convince your family to put down their iPhones in favor of actual, substantial conversations (or at least a good ol’ analog game of backyard football or charades). Instead, lead by example, and grab your own Faraday pouch — like the ones from Silent Pocket which you can find on Amazon. And if it happens to come up, go ahead and spread the gospel of phone-less-ness. Unlike the beds-for-phones that some have used to consciously remove their smartphones, Faraday cages are actually interesting as a scientific concept and not totally insufferable virtue signaling. So you’ll have something to discuss with your uncle Todd, too. 

Is it a little ridiculous to suggest buying a $50 to $70 product to help you put down your smartphone and connect with your family this holiday when you could just turn it off? Of course. But you spend that much on any number accessories for your phone, and you’ll find plenty of uses for these. After slipping your phone into the pouch for Thanksgiving dinner, and then taking it out again to call your friends about the unofficial high-school reunion at the local dive, you can seal it back up for your drive over to keep you from flouting local distracted driving laws.

Turns out, a Faraday shield, an 1830s invention, may just be what you need to break that 21st century smartphone addiction.