Look Up and Start a Conversation
I recently attended Blend Conf, a tech conference that fused design, development, and UX into a beautifully diverse and stretching experience. The one thing that really caught my eye when I heard about the conference was that there were no devices. A tech conference, where you couldn’t bring your laptop, tablet, or phone into the sessions. Instead, we were encouraged to listen, take notes in a beautifully crafted notebook, and engage in genuine conversations. I went to some great sessions, got some good technical content, but hands down the best part about the conference was that people didn’t have their head stuck behind a glowing screen. I had a ton of great conversations, didn’t get side-tracked during sessions, went go kart racing, and ended up making some good friends.
Even before I left for Blend Conf I’d been thinking about the amount of time I spend attached to my devices and the impact it has on the people around me. I work on my computer for a living, and yet I still pull my phone out every 30 minutes to check my email or twitter.
###All The Glowing Faces
I was walking around the mall the other day with my three-year-old son and I couldn’t help but notice that almost every person we passed was sitting down next to someone and both people were looking at their phone instead of talking to each other (lest you think I am so pious, I was distracting my son while my wife bought an Auntie Anne’s hot pretzel… so good). Of course, as I looked at these people in the mall I realized that I am no different. I find myself setting my phone on the table at dinner, catching up on twitter while I push my sons on the swing and reading RSS feeds during commercials while watching TV with my wife.
So, I began to ask myself why I feel the need to always be connected. Part of it may stem from the fact that I don’t want to miss out on anything, but on a more basic level I think often it is just easier. It is a way to escape, a way to distract myself from doing the hard work of engaging with my family or being fully present. But, in the end what I really want is deep relationships with my wife, my sons, my friends – not superficial chats with my hundreds of Facebook friends. I want to really listen and give myself away to those I care about. I want to set an example for my kids about what matters, and when I spend all day staring at my cell phone instead of laughing and playing with them I’m telling them that my digital life is more important than my immediate relationship with them. Ouch.
###Setting Some Boundaries
So, I’m still wrestling with this, but here are some practical things I’m trying to do:
- Not looking at my phone or opening my computer in the morning until after breakfast.
- Leaving my cell phone on the counter after work.
- Trying to unplug on Sundays and not do any work at all
- Thinking of questions to ask my family over dinner
- Asking what I really want to see out of my relationships, and then putting my thoughts and energy to those things
Sometimes I succeed at doing those things, but often times I’m still tempted to believe I’m missing out or there is something more interesting than what is right in front of me. For as much as I love technology, I don’t want to be a slave to it.
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