Prefatory note: I am writing as a guilty party rather than an innocent bystander. The following words are directed inwardly at least as much as outwardly.
It is getting hard to remember what we did before we got our smartphones. How did we keep from answering everyone’s texts immediately or looking up the minutest factoids about athletes, actors, and ancient history before we let another moment pass? What did husbands and wives, other family, and friends do at dinner and other public and private places? Why did we ever engage in face to face conversations with the person in front of us when we could have been blowing them off to inbox or text a person hundreds or thousands of miles away from us? Wasn’t good manners and courtesy way overrated?
It seems like an epidemic, whether an etiquette virus or relationship dementia. Too often, we have become so absorbed with posting, tweeting, Facebooking, and like communicating with our cellular device that we have slowly started disconnecting with the real world and the moment. Last Sunday, sitting at the airport, I was amazed to see rows and rows of future passengers glued to their seats with eyes glued to their laptops and phones. The airlines have even modified their policy in recent times to allow one to never have to cut off their “handheld devices” so long as they are in airplane mode. I’m no expert, but I wonder for how many of us our tools of technology have become avenues of addiction? I have given a little thought to this, and now offer some totally unsolicited advice:
- Choose the person in the room who can see whether you are paying attention to them over the one elsewhere who won’t know you didn’t answer their message immediately.
- If you choose face-to-face interaction, try putting your phone away and even out of convenient reach.
- Try to be self-aware of how much time you are spending with and how often you gravitate toward your phone.
- If it is an urgent or emergency situation, consider excusing yourself (if possible without divulging that you are tending to your phone) until after you’ve completed the text, call, or message.
- As much as possible, stow the phone when it’s family time, date time, double-date time, or social or spiritual fellowship time.
- Realize that any excuse given for why you are answering that text or message will almost always sound lame. Don’t excuse rudeness. Eliminate it.
We can really help each other break this habit, and we need to do so with love and patience while realizing most of us are guilty of these things at least sometimes. Let us not let the virtual and technological worlds interfere with and even hamper our “realtime relationships.” May we all practice “hanging up” our smartphones more often!