With the majority of the western world glued to their tech, I am seriously finding it hard to connect with others on a personal, human level. To clarify, I am not about to go on a rant about how much we use our devices – not at all. I more-so want to bring your attention back to those moments where many of us have gotten lost and have forgotten about connecting with another human being face-to-face. I am a 90’s baby and I too rely heavily on tech and spend hours per day connecting online or with my phone or computer for personal tasks, games, social media, music, etc. Enthralled by our gadgets and often losing track of time, it is hard to truly appreciate what should be a personal moment that deserves our full and undivided attention.
Life is so much simpler when we are young and not even old enough to have a phone plan. As a child, you speak directly to the person, giving them your full attention and being able to communicate directly and be in that moment. And if there was ever a misunderstanding, you could work it in with your words, emotions, and physical contact (hugs especially) to show how much you care and are willing to re-connect with that individual. Now, based on many of my own interactions, it seems a lot of people are content with the indirect relationships they maintain via tech and have forgotten (and are undervaluing) that face-to-face element that used to bring two or more people together. I am not discrediting things like Skype, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. that allow people to be connected with friends and family near or far. I like and use some of these lifelines myself, especially for those who are physically in other cities, countries or on different continents. Tell me, is having a serious discussion and maintaining your friendship, or even having an argument over text normal now? There are so many elements missing from the conversation when you can’t really talk with the person on the other end.
When you get together with a friend for lunch or a movie or an afternoon hang out session and all they do is look at their phone every 5 minutes, this irritates me to the max. It is truly disheartening when you are giving your full attention to someone you care about and want to connect with to talk about work, family, upcoming plans, common interests only for them to become completely distracted by their tech and not be able to finish a thought or sentence; and often return not being able to recall the topic of discussion and unable to provide any valuable input. It frustrates the hell out of me when you are speaking to someone (especially when it is about something you really care about or is very personal to share) and they ‘navigate off course’ momentarily to check their phone or Facebook. You have two choices – you can either wait for them to come back (and sit there awkwardly watching them while the scroll) or continue on and hope that some of what you are saying is being retained. When they return, most often you can tell they were distracted and not involved in the conversation, and sometimes you are even ask you to repeat what you just said – this is unacceptable to me. I am sitting here, giving you my time and attention so we can catch up or discuss [topic A] and you can’t maintain the conversation for more than a few minutes at a time.
Now if you have an important email you are expecting or if you are waiting for an urgent reply, I totally understand - just mention that you may be checking your phone periodically because you are waiting on a reply. No problemo! But if you literally can’t spend 10-20 minutes not looking at your phone to carry on a conversation with me, your priorities are a little messed up. Giving the other party the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they don’t even realize how distracted/addicted they are. Perhaps they aren’t even aware of the silence when I am waiting for a verbal reply or any kind of response while they sit across from me with their eyes pasted to the screen. How do you continue on the conversation? Do you let them finish their task or do you speak up and say “Hey, pay attention!”? Do you get angry, withdraw from the conversation, or just disconnect yourself?
No one wants to waste their time or their breath. Your friend’s Snapchat reply or a few likes on Facebook can wait. Respect the people you have a relationship with and talk to them (really talk, in person or even by video chat, not just by text or email). PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND GIVE THE HUMAN ACROSS FROM YOU YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. Do they not deserve it? Do you not expect the same from them?
I’m curious to hear if others out there have the same struggle… What do you do in these situations?
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.