December 2, 2013
A few years ago, I was meeting with an elected official trying to build funding support for a special project. It was just me and this person, and I was sharing about the program and our interests. This individual was literally on his phone responding to messages almost the entire meeting, and just occasionally glancing up to nod or comment. I guess that is multitasking. It was awkward. The meeting ended and a few days later we got the funding. I thought, well, he must have heard enough to support the project. Still, I recall musing that if I ever got a “smart phone” I would never do that to anyone during a meeting.
A couple years ago, I made the switch to a “smart phone” that is faster for messaging, email, internet access, etc. For me, the early versions were challenging to read on small screens; and, my thumbs are… well, let’s just say not very nimble when it comes to “thumb typing”. I still get frustrated by the auto correct feature when I type one word, but it replaces it with another which is quite often not the word I wanted to use. In this high tech digital world, I’m an analog person trying to preserve quality within the ever increasing pace of life. Technology has enhanced some things. I am not suggesting we unplug or go backwards. Still, at times and depending on how we use it, technology seems to have us running faster with increased expectations chasing something “better”, but perhaps leading us in the opposite direction.
A few weeks ago, on a weekend, I found myself frequently checking my work email. At times, it has just made sense or was related to a time sensitive district matter, but honestly, on that day it was like I had some link to my phone and just had to be checking it. One of my stepsons was practicing his reading, and my attention was divided between trying to listen to him and checking my phone. That was an important moment for me to realize what was happening. In terms of my awareness, it was even more important for those who matter more.
These days, I am not taking my phone to meetings or quieting it when I need to be 100% present, including when I am home and want to be 100% present. I still use it when it makes sense and supports time sensitive work; but, I am not letting it direct my time. Being connected is fine -- but the act of always connecting, can be a distraction that needs to be managed based on the priorities we establish in the context of life. Let’s keep people first and be fully present with purpose, meaning, and quality; let’s be wiser people living with smart phones.