Type, type, type, look up, repeat…
Take a walk through a mall and look around. Sit in a movie theatre and observe. Go to a restaurant and watch. What do you notice?
A mother multitasking, pushing a screeching baby in a stroller while trying to keep up with her phone.
A frustrated man commands, “Turn off your phone,” to someone yapping away in the peak of a movie.
A couple sitting across from each other at a restaurant, hands extended across the table, but not holding hands – holding their phones.
Is it just me or have we lost touch with life? So consumed are we with the virtual world that we lost sight of the real one. When we’re out, we’re checking in on those that are in. When in, we seek updates from those who are out. When is the present moment simply going to be enough?
Though there is nothing wrong with staying abreast of new technology, there is something definitely amiss with placing it ahead of people, ahead of the present moments. Innovative technology is designed to give us more control of our world, but somewhere along the way we have become enslaved to it, to the point that it now controls us. It minimizes our relationships, shifts our priorities, diminishes face to face interaction; it has turned us into anti-social zombies.
I was at the mall the other day and saw something that broke my heart. A little boy, probably around five or six years old, was walking alongside his father. “Look, Daddy,” he pointed to something that caught his attention in a store window. The father didn’t even look up from his phone, just kept on texting away. Again the little boy tried to get his attention, this time calling a bit louder. His father looked up for a split second and mumbled, “That’s nice,” not even noticing him (obviously replying just to shut him up so he could back to more important business).
A precious bonding moment gone. Sold perhaps for a new app, a Twitter update, a Facebook shout-out, an Instagram message, a text, an email – you name it. Bizarre how many platforms for staying connected exist in a social world that is slowly moving towards being anything but.
And the man just kept on walking, all the while glued to his phone, oblivious to the fact that his son had stopped many steps behind him.
My heart ached for the little boy. What did he want to tell his father about the display? What on earth was so much more important to his father at that moment? I smiled at the boy as I passed by him, as if silently acknowledging, affirming, that he mattered. A beautiful smile met my gaze, just before the little boy ran to catch up with his dad.
Losing out to a phone. How sad is that?
My mind was reeling. What kind of a world do we live in, where children come second to a lifeless device? To be in such close proximity to the people that matter most, yet miles apart in our thoughts.
Once upon a time, technology was a quick way to stay connected with loved ones; in place for safety measures or to close the distance between oceans. Nowadays, more often than not, this new age of technology disconnects us from those who are near.
As an observer I started to wonder, panic actually – am I this man too? Do I unknowingly do this? What is this teaching our children? What does this say about us? Are we all on this self-destructive path together?
And so, for the next little while, I started to pay more attention to this tuning-out-of-life syndrome we created. Scary, I tell you. Parents on smart phones in waiting rooms and parks, children on iPads inside shopping carts. Which, by the way, is also disheartening; left to their own devices, children seem to seek a connection to others the only way they’re shown how. Is it any wonder why the new generation of kids show signs of eroded social skills?
And so there I had my answer – an electronic pacifier has replaced human dialogue in every corner I looked. And while none of us want to admit we are like that, the reality is that we all do this to some degree, on various levels and in a multitude of our own justifiable forms. Sure there is a time and place for everything (I’m not insisting technology is all bad), but it shouldn’t be everywhere, all the time and certainly not on our children’s clock.
Like any change, the only solution is perhaps the least comfortable of all – to turn off the culprits and look up before we further self-destruct.