Are you always “ON”?

My apologies in advance; I freely admit that this is a rant. 

I sat in a studio meeting Monday with 20 or so other people.  Over the course of an hour, at least half of those attending (myself included) checked their phones for one thing or another.  Whether it was the weather, email, their latest Angry Birds score (I have never played the game, do you even get a score?) or just to see what time it was, for that not so brief period of pulling it out of pocket, typing the password and checking the content, we were disengaged.

 This morning was one of those rare occasions when I drove to work.  With a meeting across town over lunch, the bike just wasn’t going to cut it today.  I live ¾ of a mile from my office, and in that distance, I counted 5 people doing something with their phone while driving.

 I can’t stand seeing people sitting across the table from one another, each glued to a cell phone screen and not engaged in conversation.  I like it even less when I am one of those people at the table, sans phone, struggling to keep someone’s attention.    

I’m trying to figure out at what point everything became so important that we are to be expected to check, process and respond within 5 seconds of an alert tone.  Many of you reading this don’t have memories of not being forever connected to friends and family.  When we make a phone call, one of the first questions we ask is “where are you?”  This is something that would never have happened 20 years ago.  The phone was literally tied to the wall in the kitchen. 

 If it is so important that you don’t miss the call, consider missing the meeting, skipping the meal, or waiting to get in the car until you have finished your call.  If you absolutely have to let someone know where you are, “check in” at the restaurant before you sit down.  Take yourself back to a time when it was a pleasure to be able to sit across the table from someone, take in your surroundings (after all, these places were actually designed) and embark on a conversation.  If you can’t go an entire meal / meeting / trip to the grocery store without updating your Facebook status, it might be time to cut the cord.

 Here is my commitment.  If I am out to dinner, the phone either stays in my pocket, in the car, or at the house.  After all, I am usually out to dinner with one of the few people I talk to anyway, whoever is calling can wait an hour.  If I am in a meeting, I will not disengage myself from what someone felt was important enough to get us all together just to see what the weather might be like for a lunch hour run.  Finally, though I don’t text and drive, my cell phone use in the car will be reduced to calls about which side of the airport to pick up on, the occasional chat with Siri about directions, or to let AAA know that my car is on fire.  I am distracted enough and probably don’t need to walk that close to the line.

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