The Rule of Three

Reclaiming Conversation Book Review

Do kids really do this?

“When college students go to dinner, they want the company of their friends in the dining hall and their phone. They also want the freedom to go on their phones. To have both at the same time, they observe what some call the ‘rule of three’: When you are with a group at dinner you have to check that at least three people have their heads up from their phones before you give yourself permission to look down at your phone. So conversation proceeds—but with different people having their heads up at different times.”

How can anyone attend to so many things at one time?

Sherry Turkle illustrates that it simply isn’t possible. When people engage in this sort of activity, they only get fragments of the conversation. They often have to ask for something to be repeated.

I think another important question to ask here is, can’t whatever is on your phone wait?

Why not, engage in the conversation with your friends? Take some time to unplug and relax.

The rule of three is not the best way to enjoy time with friends.

Sherry Turkle writes, “In the midst of our great experiment with technology, we are often caught between what we know we should do and the urge to check our phones. Across generations, we let technology take us away from conversation yet yearn for what we’ve lost. We reach for a moment of correction, an opportunity to recapture things we know by heart. When we invest in conversation, we get a payoff in self-knowledge, empathy, and the experience of community. When we move from conversation to mere connection, we get a lot of unintended consequences.”

I enjoyed Turkle’s book, Reclaiming Conversation, and have written several posts about the themes she covers. I know I use my phone too much, but I have never abided by the rule of three. I hadn’t even heard it before.

I try my best to limit my phone use when socializing. I think that should be the rule. I shut down my phone at the cinema, maybe I can do it at restaurants too. Even the ones that have free wi-fi.

Or maybe not. My phone is pretty compelling after all.

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