In our current society, and likely not going away any time soon, we are always connected to a plethora of devices in work, multiple social media profiles and an always on smart phone. At what point in time can you honestly say that you cannot be reached in a typical day in your life?
Like most of us, we have toast feeds on our phones which consistently update us on notifications and this draws us to persistently check in, even when it’s not remotely important and the flipside of that is that we often don’t unplug long enough to enjoy the time off that we do have. In another post, Sam Harris poignantly states that we should ‘Be in the moment’ and I can’t but help to agree with him.
Think about when you go over to a friends house, a party or a night out, it’s quite clear that the way we interact with each other has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. You find yourself at a table, people are looking at their phones every few minutes and as such are never truly in the conversation for any extended periods of time. This isn’t always the case of course, but I’m sure you’ve been in environments exactly like this. The problem with that type of behaviour itself is that people are effectively addicted to technology.
Addiction seems like a slightly exaggerated term here, but lets look at what the definition of it actually is:
Addiction is the continued repetition of a behaviour despite adverse consequences,or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviours. Addictions can include, but are not limited to, drug abuse, exercise addiction, food addiction, sexual addiction, computer addiction and gambling. Classic hallmarks of addiction include impaired control over substances or behaviour, preoccupation with substance or behaviour, continued use despite consequences, and denial. Habits and patterns associated with addiction are typically characterized by immediate gratification (short-term reward), coupled with delayed deleterious effects (long-term costs).
There are many times when we know we shouldn’t answer, reply and check status updates, yet we do. Effectively what we do then is to deprioritise the things we are currently doing and the people we are with. The priority then becomes whatever is happening through the device. As much as we know that this isn’t actually how we feel (for the most part), our behaviour is still reflecting it.
A friend of mine (P.J) and I talk about this issue quite a lot and often laugh about girls we have been on dates with who go to pick up their phones mid-conversation. Our immediate course of action in these scenarios is to take their phones and put them in our pockets and there’s usually a pretty quick realisation of what they were doing, then a joke can be made of it. (That’s not to say that sometimes they might not be bored of our company 😉 )
The point of what I’m saying is as follows: Do you understand the message being delivered to other people by the actions you take? We all need to start thinking about that a little bit more, especially when it comes to our family and friends, but equally in business and with people who are new to us – don’t outcast them based on your lack of restraint or need for immediate gratification of an unworthy (typically) reward system.
The fortunate side of all of this is that it is a reversible behaviour when you actively think about what you are doing instead of being on autopilot. What’s most important here however, is to lead by example and teach our children the right and wrong way to act and interact with others. This is an additional parental responsibility to be taken on board that didn’t exist 20 years ago, as a result we need to be the first line of adopters to it. The lesson to be taught is that if you are interested in a person or are engaged in something together, technology shouldn’t constantly distract you. If your priority is your phone, you need to realize that you are sending a clear message to the people you are with—that you’re not all that interested in them or what they’re saying.
Society as a whole needs to realise when it’s appropriate to be available/unavailable as without this active thought process, our entire lives become automated by the technology we have created to give us more time to do the things we truly should love.
Create memories, real ones.