Tamara Jenkins hosted Torquay’s first Disconnect Dinner last week at a private home in Fischer Street, Torquay. Photos: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

PHONE-FREE DINNERS SEE WOMEN DISCONNECT TO CONNECT

July 3, 2019 BY

Some people say technology has simplified our lives while others believe it has damaged contemporary society’s ability to connect face-to-face.

Navigating through the chaotic hustle and bustle of Melbourne’s inner-city, Tamara Jenkins found herself observing people’s behaviours when using their mobile phones.

Withdrawn, aloof and completely engrossed, Tamara then began questioning her own screen dependencies. The 45-year-old admits she was checking her work emails and social accounts upon waking up every morning.

“I had a couple of friends say they were feeling disconnected. I think everybody feels so connected through our phones and social media friends, but in real life, a few friends said they were feeling a bit isolated, disconnected and lonely,” says Tamara, who moved to Torquay from Melbourne with her husband Shane about six months ago.

“Combined with that, I started noticing the way the phone was taking over people’s lives. I found I was certainly a culprit, checking work emails first thing in the morning and losing hours down the rabbit hole of Instagram.”

Determined to locate a solution to the growing digital epidemic, Tamara suggested engaging in a “mini digital detox” with her girlfriends over dinner.

The catch? Everyone hands in their phones at the start of the evening.

The public relations consultant’s innovative idea has seen her host four “Disconnect Dinners” in Melbourne.

The concept launched in Torquay last Thursday at a home in Fischer Street.

“It’s all about bringing like-minded people together. My friends absolutely loved the concept, and I’ve found that’s been the feedback. I’m not asking people to throw away their phones, rather it’s a chance to switch-off in order to meet new people and have great conversations,” says Tamara.

Organising intimate dinners of up to 10-12 people at either restaurants or private homes, Tamara says her initiative has attracted women from all walks of life.

“It’s been a real mix. The average age ranges from about 30 to 55. It’s been fairly broad,” says Tamara.

A 2018 Australian Loneliness Report found one in four Australian adults are lonely, while nearly 55 per cent of the population feel they lack companionship at least sometimes.

These statistics were rather alarming to Tamara.

“A lot of women say to me, ‘my teenage daughter has to come to something like this’. Teenagers feel like they would die without their phones. A lot of women who have attended my previous dinners have said they find themselves grabbing for their phones.

“I often tell my Disconnect Dinner attendees, on average, we check our phones 85 times each day. Australians spend around three hours a day on them. It got me thinking… imagine an extra three hours a day – you could catch up on sleep, catch up with friends or even fly to Hobart for breakfast.”

Tamara says the results have been surprising, with many guests not noticing the absence of phones over the course of the dinner.

“People haven’t even noticed. They’re so caught up in conversation and having some laughs that suddenly it’s 11pm and we were supposed to vacate the restaurant at 10pm,” says Tamara.

Tamara is in the process of planning a series of day-long disconnect exercises where women can practice meditation and mindfulness.

For more information, email Tamara@bretreats.com.au.