A few weeks ago my husband and I went to a concert at a relatively small venue. Our seats were on edge of the second floor, which overlooked the area in front of the stage. The concert had not yet begun. People were milling around as they waited. But instead of talking to the person that had accompanied them to the concert, they were doing something else.
My husband pointed to the view below, “Look down there. Look at what every other person is doing.”
In the hands of more people than we could count were the glowing screens of hand held communication devices. And standing next to them was a person who might as well be invisible.
When did this happen? When did the people on a screen become more interesting, more engaging, more desirable to interact with than the living, breathing person standing next to us?
When did the need to check our communication device become a debilitating addiction, not being able to go five minutes without looking at it?
I am far from being as Hands Free as I want to be, but lately I have been doing some major soul searching about my own use of technology. And more importantly, I’ve taken a long hard look at the cost of distraction on my life and on the lives of the people I love the most.
I feel this topic is so critical that I actually spent the whole week writing about it. (See “You Caught My Eye,” “Eyes Unseen Words Unheard,” and “This May Hurt A Little,” for the series on eye contact.)
This is the first time since I started this blog that I stuck to one particular Hands Free topic for the entire week. It appears that lingering on this topic allowed us to dig deeper. It allowed us time to process the information and begin to implement some changes. Sticking with the topic of eye contact for several days proved to be productive, and in some cases, life-changing for many.
One reader’s comment captured the essence of what so many had expressed to me privately through email. She said, “Wow…when tears are falling down your cheeks as you are reading this, it tells you it’s time to make some changes in your life.”
I am grateful for the honesty you shared in comments such as that. I am grateful for the candor of your observations, as well as the newfound awareness you described. I am particularly grateful for the hundreds of times you “shared” one of the eye contact posts in an effort to bring greater human connection to someone else’s life.
Have I mentioned that I am grateful I am not alone in this journey?
You never cease to inspire me.
You never cease to encourage me to “raise the bar” on my own personal quest to be Hands Free.
That is precisely what happened when one reader shared a thought-provoking article published in “The Wall Street Journal” entitled, “Your Blackberry Or Your Wife,” written by Elizabeth Bernstein. The article is highly worth the read, but it is the author’s short checklist that has resonated deeply with me:
10 Signs Your Devices Are Hurting Your Relationships:
1. You can’t get through a meal without emailing, texting or talking on the phone.
2. You look at more than one screen at a time, checking email while watching television, for example.
3. You regularly email or text, other than for something urgent, while your partner or another family member is with you.
4. You sleep with your phone near you, and you check your email or texts while in bed.
5. You log onto your computer while in bed.
6. You have had an argument with a loved one about your use of technology.
7. You text or email while driving.
8. You no longer go outside for fun.
9. You never turn off your phone.
10. When you spend time with your family—a meal, a drive, hanging out—each person is looking at a different screen.
I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I realized I engage in less of these behaviors that I did a year ago, but I am not letting myself off the hook. The Truth Hurts…but the Truth Heals.
And the truth is…there are still major changes I need to make.
And the other, undeniable, critical truth is…I only get one shot at being a loving, connected and present parent, spouse, and human being.
And there is no time like the present.
I have decided to do a Tech Cleanse (as described by Ms. Bernstein) this weekend. I am turning off my hand-held communication device and my computer on both Saturday and Sunday.
(Did I type that correctly? My hands began to shake as I wrote that…oh yes, The Truth Hurts.)
Internet connection…off. Human connection…On.
Will you join me?
I guarentee your emails will be waiting there Monday morning. But your family? Well, they can only wait for so long.
Haven’t they waited long enough?
Re-read the checklist entitled: “10 Signs Your Devices Are Hurting Your Relationships” once again. Answer honestly. Do you see a need for change? If so, pick one behavior from the list and decide what you can do tomorrow to begin to change (or eliminate) it. On the flipside, do you know someone who could use a wake up call about his or her excessive use of technology? The Truth Hurts, but The Truth Heals. You know what to do.