Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
A spirit that is not afraid

New initiative hopes to foster relationships at mealtimes without phones

<p>Lauren Bradford at first Auburn Family Table event.&nbsp;</p>

Lauren Bradford at first Auburn Family Table event. 

When many students go to eat, they order their food, find a secluded spot and proceed to delve into the realm of technology and social media — consumed by their phones and not the people around them. 

Lauren Bradford, last year’s Miss Auburn University, hopes to change that. Her initiative encourages students to come together for meals, leaving their phones behind. 

“It’s very evident, if you just go in the dining halls, that people are hooked on their phones,” said Bradford, a sophomore majoring in finance. “We brainstormed and planned for months and months to have this initiative called The Auburn Family Table.”

Partnering with Dining Services, The Auburn Family Table, which recently held its inaugural event, invites students from across campus to gather around the new family-style, farmhouse tables in the dining halls. 

“The goal is you’re meeting people and fostering these connections that you would have never otherwise created,” Bradford said. “We got people who we saw were sitting alone and who were using their phones as a shield, and we invited them to come sit at the table with us.”

She said that the program is designed to embrace the University’s mission and embody the Auburn Family — where everyone deserves a seat at the table. 

“All of these people were fostering these friendships that they never would have otherwise fostered and having these connections with people,” Bradford said. “It’s been really cool to see the planning of what we had envisioned come to fruition in the dining halls.” 

She said that Dining Services provides fresh cookies to tables that participate in the program and added that they hope to attract different organizations on campus to participate as well.

“So, we’re talking about other organizations signing up to host a table, and that way they can host a table and foster connections while also explaining, ‘Hey, this is what my organization is about,’ and just spreading awareness,” Bradford said. 

She commented that once the program becomes established at Auburn, she hopes to promote the idea of The Auburn Family Table on other college campuses. 

“After this semester is when I’m going to start reaching out to other campuses,” Bradford said. “It’s really cool to see how our school could possibly in the future be a model for other schools.” 

Bradford, who did not get a cellphone until high school, said she has been passionate for years about finding reasons why people are attached to their phones — and solutions on how to fix it.

“When I was in ninth grade, I developed this platform called the Digital Diet Plan. I just found all of this information that was out there that people just don’t know about, how our devices are invading our relationships,” she said. 

During this time, she spoke with elementary, middle and high school students about how society has become addicted to cellphones, moving away from genuine human connection. 

“I ended up speaking to like 4,000 students while I was in high school,” Bradford said. “I wanted to carry [the platform] with me to Auburn’s campus.”

After being crowned Miss Auburn University 2019, she continued her fight to raise awareness for the excessive use of cellphones and its negative impacts on people and their relationships.

“I wanted to go to Montgomery to speak to legislators about getting this class in public middle schools where students are taught how to properly use technology,” Bradford said. “And we passed out resources every day [on campus], just getting people thinking, ‘How much time am I spending on my devices, and how has this impacted my relationships?’” 

With The Auburn Family Table being her most recent endeavor, she said she hopes the program will be the beginning of something new at Auburn — where students interact with each other instead of using their phones while eating. 

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Auburn Plainsman delivered to your inbox

“I know that when people give tours, it’s a common thing to shout, ‘War Eagle,’” Bradford said. “I have this vision of the Auburn Family Table being similar to that, where we would go in dining halls and we would sit with people … aside from using our phones.”

Share and discuss “New initiative hopes to foster relationships at mealtimes without phones” on social media.