I love my smart phone. I can’t imagine not having it nearby. It has become an integral part of my day, one that makes my life easier. It gives me directions, checks the weather, dials my friends, wakes me up, monitors my home, entertains me and so much more. I would be lost without it.
But as much as I love it, I know when it needs a little time out. Those are the times when it is not always appropriate paying more attention to your phone than the people you are with.
Smart phones, tablets and computers are all great vehicles for connecting with others, but we have to be mindful of connecting on a human level.
We’ve all seen it, people pulling out their phones to look at or input something when they are with others in meetings, at dinner, and in line for an event.
Here is a list I call The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: When it is ok to use your smart device with others and when you should definitely keep it tucked away.
Let’s start with the Good – There are times when an electronic device enhances a meeting. Scheduling an appointment on your calendar, looking up a fact or address as part of your meeting, sharing contact information, or even a favorite app. It’s part of your conversation and definitely appropriate.
Now comes the Bad. We have all seen this, and maybe even been guilty of doing this. Checking and responding to texts and emails during a meeting or conversation with someone.
The draw of cyberspace can be hypnotizing. We want to feel connected to the world, to be included, and that piece of technology at our fingertips feels like the vehicle to do just that. How often have you seen two people at lunch, both engrossed in their phones? They want to feel connected but are missing out on the connection that is sitting right in front of them. Are we losing the art of true communication based on talking to another human being, learning about their lives and their interests?
Finally, the Ugly. There are thousands of cases of people’s lives ending tragically due to texting while driving and it doesn’t get any uglier than that. But I have witnessed some other examples that are Ugly nonetheless and gave me serious pause.
A situation I recently witnessed was at a funeral. I watched in shock as two members of the congregation scrolled through emails and Facebook during the service. I found this to be very disrespectful to the family, the clergy and to the others in attendance.
Another situation that falls under Ugly is the parent who pays more attention to their phone than their child. Here are observations from two women that witnessed these failed connections between moms and their children.
- “I’m sitting in the mall food court watching a mom with two small boys, more interested in her cell phone than the boys. What a sad state of affairs. They felt the need to scream mommy to get her attention and she still didn’t pay attention to them.
She wasn’t even talking on her phone. She was typing and swiping. I watched this little boy do bad things on purpose to get her attention. It broke my heart. I know he is going to take that with him into teenage years and then it won’t be so innocent.”
Another woman noted:
- I noticed a mom strolling her baby recently while talking on the cell phone – it struck me that, while we used to talk to our babies while we pushed them in their strollers, cell phones have changed things for many parents.
- Cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices have changed many things for many people, including the level to which they connect with others in one-to-one human interaction.
There are generations that have no idea what life was like before these devices became such an integral part of who we are. But what are we sacrificing in the name of relationships by being so dependent on them.