Thirty years ago I was speeding north on a New Jersey interstate in my new Nissan 200SX. I don’t recall where I was coming from, or where I was going, but I do remember what happened that particular day.
As I zipped along in 5th gear, I passed a scene we only see on reality TV these days. A young woman, completely decked out in her beautiful, billowing white wedding dress, and a tall man in a tuxedo, were standing beside their car on the shoulder of the road. As I raced past I smiled, put my car into neutral, pulled over to the side of the road and then backed up to their car.
I got out and greeted them with a friendly “hello” and asked if they needed help, thinking that perhaps I could drop them off at the next exit or go to a gas station and get them a tow truck. It was a nice thought, but that wasn’t exactly in the cards.
I could understand what they were saying for the most part, but English was their second language. What I gathered was that it was their wedding day, the wedding was in 2 hours, the church was 45 minutes away, and their car was no longer working.
That changed my plans.
I told them that if they could fit into my little Nissan, I would happily take them to the church. While my car technically had 4 seats, it really only seated 2 comfortably. Nonetheless, we folded the big guy in the tux into the backseat, his knees practically touching his chin, and the fair princess in white climbed into the front seat. I swear the fluffiness of her dress filled the whole cabin of the car.
It was a fun drive to the church as I learned about their lives and their hopes for the future. It was a great day and I was happy to help out.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday.
It was dark. Probably 7:30 in the evening and I was just getting home from one of my clients. I turned left to go up a wooded, poorly lit, windy road when I saw some flares on the right side of the road near a broken down car. I shifted into 3rd gear, paused a moment as I wondered if they needed help, then pressed down on my gas pedal, and zipped past them. “Why bother?” I thought. “These days everyone has a cell phone and can call for help.”
Man did that suck and feel bad.
While smartphone technology is fantastic, and has certainly done amazing things for the way we live our lives, I do think it’s tearing at the fabric of community.
As if to accentuate that point, the next day I saw young mother walking with her newborn baby. They were both taking advantage of the amazing spring weather we’ve had recently. The baby was in a cute, little, navy blue stroller. The Mom was dressed in bright yellow and had both her hands on the handle as she pushed her baby. And in her hands, between the baby’s face and hers, was a black, big-screen smartphone. Nice bonding.
And we wonder why our children just want to get their hands on our electronics.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though I don’t use much of it, I think technology is AMAZING. I love seeing all the fantastic things we can do with our new inventions. But what worries me most is that we aren’t engaging with it consciously. We are letting the technology rule our lives and it is leading to a distance between parents and children, between couples, between friends, between us humans. The divide is becoming more pronounced, and in its wake I fear is the death of community.
I believe you will have far more satisfaction in life by connecting with another human rather than connecting with your electronics. I encourage you to put them down and remember what it is like to make eye contact with someone you care about and be fully present to them.
Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.
– Henry David Thoreau
A lot has been written about the problems and distractions created by our smartphones.
I’ve heard from teachers about how students find it harder to talk to each other or make eye contact. I’ve heard the horrible news stories about how someone was texting just before a car accident. I’ve been on numerous calls with friends and clients while they are driving when I hear them say, “Shoot, I just missed my exit.” We all have been with a friend or business colleague who was more focused on their smartphone than on us.
I’m wise enough to know we will never stop the advance of technology. But that same wisdom tells me that the 10 minutes of undivided attention and listening that I gift to someone may actually change their life.
In my opinion, that makes for a a very easy choice.
READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.