It seemed funny at the time: My seventeen year old son and his girlfriend, sitting in the back seat, side by side, texting each other, rather than talking.
It doesn’t seem as funny now.
The technology that is meant to connect us often doesn’t. Instead, we have become increasingly scattered and distracted, dwelling in a state of continuous partial attention. We tweet in 144 characters. We text in abbreviated words. We take in information in bullet points and sound bites.
We are expected to be always on, always accessible. We stand like players on a digital tennis court, waiting for a ball to be served over the net, not wanting to miss a play, and always wanting to be seen as available to volley back.
We have lost the capacity to sit still, to be still, and to know the beauty and the grandeur of quiet and solitude. We have lost the capacity to create space for creativity; and we have lost touch with the power of reflection.
At risk is our capacity to relate, really relate; to communicate deeply… to look each other in the eye and talk… really talk.
Traveling through the Newark airport recently, we stopped for dinner. On each table – firmly mounted between the place settings – an iPad – to order our food and drinks and surf the net and update our statuses and… everything except a (real) connection with the person across the table… because that would require looking over or around that now sacred tablet.
Some studies have shown that stepping away from our smartphones and tablets can have the same physical and mental impact as going cold turkey from smoking or drugs. But what might it be like to put our tech aside for just an evening… or a day… or a week? What might it be like to reconnect with ourselves… and with those we love?
Disconnect to connect. Will you give it a try?