I’m defining it now. Dinnernet. It is a modern cultural phenomenon that will only increase in it’s significance as time moves forward. Dinnernet is when a person replaces the social, familial bonding that culturally (and biologically?) occurs during mealtimes. When a college student orders a pizza to eat by himself while surfing the Internet, that’s dinnernet. When a teenager grabs her food and eats in front of the computer screen to watch reruns on Hulu, that’s dinnernet. Even when a father constantly draws his attention away from the family meal to check the score of the USC vs. Notre Dame game on his smartphone, he’s really eating dinnernet.
At one time it was the television that threatened the sanctity of the family meal, but the Internet, in it’s infinite versatility, is able to do everything the telly can and more. With so many of the families that I work with, dinner time is the only time during the day when everyone’s busy schedules collide (if at all). It is a healthy practice to use that dinner time to check-in with the rest of the family, to make sure that everyone feels that they matter to everyone else. It’s true that teenagers are less likely to share every event of their day with everyone else, especially when it comes to the outfit their crush was wearing during 7th period today, but simply asking them about their day gives them the message that they’re important to you. If they don’t feel like sharing, instead of probing deeper, offer to share something about yourself.
Now, this type of interaction can be difficult in a family without distractions. When you give family members an excuse to avoid the conversations that they already might not feel like having, relationships are sure to grow distant. The Internet is the ultimate path of least resistance, and while it can make things simpler by eliminating work (read: dissertation research), work is what is needed to maintain relationships.
And there you have it. Dinnernet. Until someone can show me documented proof that they invented the word first, I’m taking credit for it’s creation.