Step away from the phone.

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Friends, Musings, Technology
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, two young men came into the tea shop.  They were probably in college, although they didn’t look very old.  They ordered their drinks, one tea and one hot chocolate, then sat near the window.  I don’t recall how long they were there, but as far as I could tell, they spent most of the time hunched over their phones, not interacting with each other at all.

This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed time and time again: this sitting together, not paying attention to the other human or humans but focusing intently on the “others” caught inside that bit of technology.  Coffee shops have become all too often places where people go to be alone together.  It’s something I understand for people who are on their own and simply want to be around other people while they work or read.  I understand if people meet to work together.  And trust me, I understand the urge to check my email, see what’s been posted on Facebook, or check to see who’s liked my blog for the day.  Before smartphones, it was easy to talk and laugh with someone else without distractions.  There was no internet, no siren song luring you to abandon the puny human before you and take off into the outer reaches of the world.

But I implore you.  Don’t be the person who ignores a friend for the internet.  When you spend time with a person in person, spend time with him or her, not simply sitting in the same vicinity.  Look at him, talk to her, let your friend know that you value him by taking some time to care enough to put aside technology to listen. Leave the phone in your purse or pocket; put it face down on the table, off to the side.  Maybe she’ll do the same and you’ll both feel cherished.

I’m challenging you this spring to take the time to really be with people and to step away from the phone! It will be worth it, I promise.

  1. Excellent advice! 🙂

  2. Sue says:

    Well said! A friend and I were only talking about this the other day…..aargh! Will future generations lose the ability to communicate ona personal level? I go to coffee shops and read the paper sometimes when I’m on my own, but when I’m with friends we never stop talking to each other …. Happy Easter

  3. Janet, you have written in this post something that I’ve been feeling for quite sometime. My first encounter with this type of behavior was with my grandkids (well – teens; 18,19,20 & 21).
    They were visiting me and all of them were on their phones texting. When I said something like – OK, no phones we’re going to interact – they put the phones on their laps so that they had easy access. When another was talking to me 2 were looking down at their phones.
    Can you believe that?
    Well, now I have them put their phones in their purse or pocket and they cannot use them unless I fall down and need an ambulance. 😳 LOL
    I love them but dislike the addiction they have to their phones. I think in the future there’s going to be a great many with neck injuries from looking down all the time. 😁
    Great post !!!!

    • Neck and finger issues, the latter from texting, are already being seen. I believe your story because I see examples of it everywhere, even in my own family. I try very hard not to whip my phone out at every opportunity, especially with other people. It drives me crazy to see women pushing children in strollers while talking or texting or who knows what? Spend time with your child, for Pete’s sake. You’ll never have that time back!


  4. You were reading my mind. I hope doctors are specializing in neck and hand conditions and psychologists are studying up on how to teach someone to have a conversation with another human being. I took a short train trip and seated across the aisle was a family – mom, dad, and about a four year-old boy. The entire trip the mom was scrolling on her phone and dad was working the tablet. Not one word was spoken to the child, not one tree was noticed out the window. I love technology, but I find this sad. They have given up living their real life with family and friends for a selfie induced life on line with strangers.

    • Judy, lots of wisdom in your comment. I love blogging, visiting blogs, and being online, but when I get away from it and into real life, balance is restored. I got back into walking in “my” park and even though there’s not much growing there yet, it’s just wonderful to spend some time outside. I take my phone, but for photos and safety.

      One thing I find interesting about cell phones is the way we feel we can’t survive without one. If I forget my phone, admittedly something that doesn’t happen often, I have to fight the feeling that I can’t get along without it. For almost all my life I lived without a phone other than a landline and did just fine, probably better in some ways. I agree with you that I love technology, but too many of us have a difficult time managing it and having relationships with real people.


  5. I so agree…. my niece is such a phone-a-holic… she even played with her phone during a hiring interview… no wonder that she could forget this job…. :o(

  6. There seems to be a pressure to not be disconnected for even a moment, a compulsion to contribute to the limitless chatter lest we be excluded from something. Ironic, since this is often at the cost of human relationships. What you describe is so common as to no longer be considered rude. Nobody saw this peril as a consequence of ubiquitous communication coming, not even in science fiction that so often preficts technology with astonishing accuracy.

    • You’re right about the unintended consequences. I’d never thought about sci-fi not predicting it. That’s an interesting observation. When I take the time to disconnect even a little, the sense of relaxation and peace is palpable!


  7. julieallyn says:

    Could not agree with you more. Have posted this to my Facebook page. Great post!

  8. Indeed…it’s such a curious phenomenon. How can you be with someone and not be with them? But that happens with or without technology. It’s seems to have made the disconnect even more pronounced. This drive to ignore the person or people in your company for a machine promotes a continuous lack of interaction.

    • You’re right that it can happen without technology, Sally, but smartphones in particular have made it so much easier. It’s like having another person with you at all times, one that insists upon getting all the attention.


  9. nowathome says:

    I totally agree!

    • I think each person who agrees with this needs to make a concerted effort not to do it and then try to share that policy with others, even if it’s difficult. It would be a small start.


  10. That is so true. The next generation will not be able to interact with each other facet ot face.

  11. Helen C says:

    Well said. I should send this to my husband. 😉 The other day he took me to a nice restaurant to eat. I didn’t expect this and was quite happy. While we were waiting for food, he started playing Sudoku with his iPhone. I had to tell him to put his phone away. Ha.

  12. Love your challenge…
    how about this as an addition…
    put down the technology…
    take the tea, coffee, warm beverage…
    chat and breath in NATURE
    even if just…
    for a moment.


    • Jane, great additions to the challenge. Or take a walk together outside somewhere, whether in the city or in nature, and talk, look around, enjoy what you see and hear.

      Happy Easter!


  13. It’s hard to watch isn’t it… I’ll be spending plenty of time this weekend away from all my devices. 🙂

  14. janecagatin says:

    exactly..perfect advice for everyone..:)

  15. There have always been some forms of distractions in our modern world that have limited personal interaction (radio, television, etc). However, none seem to have been as pervasive and portable as the “smart phone.” While connecting us in so many amazing ways, I think they play a tremendous role in “dumbing down” personal relationships. A good word, Janet!

    • Thanks for chiming in, Chuck. I think we older people realize this more than those who grew up with smartphones, which makes it more difficult for the younger people to realize what’s going on and what they’re missing!


  16. You are so right: I even witness this in ‘third world countries’—- people are tuning out the present to be sure they haven’t missed snippet of text/cyber info. Over the years I’ve noted that we, as a species, are giving away our gifts.. first i noted was the gift of intelligence, handing it over to calculators to add a column of numbers. i still like to race someone using a calculator while i add with a pen or pencil. then came gps, and some people put away their maps and their natural awareness of ‘which way is north.’ ‘we'[ drive four blocks instead of walking – or heaven forbid – jogging… we buy micro-ready foods instead of preparing more-healthy options.

    sigh.. i’ll pull my head out of the computer and tweak back to tasks awaiting my attention!

    great post!

    • So good to see you again! Glad you enjoyed the post. I try very hard not to be on my phone all the time and since I like to read, it easier. Starting a new part time job has gotten my brain fired up, too.

      Hope all’s well with you.