Recently, I attended a lunch and learn event that had a truly dynamic speaker. Her presentation was relevant to every single woman in the room and her delivery was excellent. Since I attend a lot of events, I feel confident that I know a great speaker when I see and hear one. Halfway through the presentation, I glanced around the room to get a sense of the crowd. Were they enjoying the speaker as much as I was? Were they responding to what she had to share? The truth was that a large number of them were staring at their smartphones.
This aggravated me on a number of levels. One, since I’m a speaker, I know how disheartening it is to be working the crowd and see people not even trying to make eye contact with you. Frankly, I find it disrespectful. Second, what could possibly be so important that the audience members can’t wait another 15 minutes to check their phones?
In a recent New York Times article, Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of the impulse control Disorders Clinic at Stanford University, shared that excessive use of the internet, cellphone and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, forgetful and even more narcissistic. Uh-oh. Follow up studies have shown that the immediacy of the internet and the efficiency of a smart phone can change the core of who we are. I don’t know about you, but this gives me some thought.
Other studies have indicated that when students were asked to give up their technology for the day, they exhibited symptoms similar to drug dependency. They actually went through a withdrawal process. Does any of this really surprise you?
I went for a bike ride the other night with my 20-year-old son. We were having a great time when I spotted an old friend. I stopped to have a chat with her and catch up on her life. I don’t believe I talked for more than 10 minutes at the most. My son was about 12 feet ahead of me, standing by the lake. The sun was getting close to setting and the scene was just beautiful. When I caught up with him, I thanked him for waiting for me, and he proclaimed, “I had nothing to do for that whole time. I didn’t have my iphone in my pocket.”
I can’t say that I’m not an offender myself. There is the time I was standing with my husband at the check-out counter at the grocery store and decided that I had to check my emails on my phone, again. I had just done this not 10 minutes before. He was talking to me and I wasn’t hearing a word that he said. Finally, he stated loudly, “Will you please put that thing away?!!”
Is it possible that we have become too used to having every minute filled with stimulation? Are we so easily bored that we are in need of constant excitement? Are we capable of doing one thing at a time anymore?
Maybe some of you are thinking that this certainly doesn’t pertain to you. If so, congratulations— you are on the right path to finding balance with technology use. The rest of you (including myself) might need to reflect on this a bit. Do you find yourself staring at your phone while you talk to your kids? Do you take your phone to bed with you? Do you get excited when you hear someone has left you a message?
If so, I have a challenge for you. I hereby decree Sunday, August 26 no technology day. Can you go a full day without connecting on your computer and phone? I plan on doing it, and I’m going to see if I can talk my son into doing the same. So, who’s in? Write to me and let me know your experience.