By Linda Commito
Is the smart phone really so smart that we allow it to prioritize who is most deserving of our attention?
Have you seen the television commercial where a man is interviewing kids and asks them, “Is it better to do two things at once or one?” Kids answer with a resounding, “Two!” This cell phone provider would have you believe that surfing and talking are better than doing just one at a time. But is that true?
When others are more concerned with grabbing their ringing cell phone than finishing their conversation with you, or they leave you hanging in mid-sentence to see who just texted them, it’s hard to feel valued. How about when you’re talking to someone on the phone and you know they’re surfing the Internet at the same time? Are you as apt to have a meaningful conversation when you’re aware that another distraction could disrupt it at any moment? Is the smart phone really so smart that we allow it to prioritize who is most deserving of our attention?
In a tech-driven world where we connect more quickly and over greater distances, why are so many people feeling less connected, more separate and lonely? We may be convinced that we’re more “connected” than ever, but our hearts are saying otherwise. We’re sending lots of messages, but they don’t always convey the most important one: “I care about you!”
My hairstylist has a sign in his salon window: “You matter!” As soon as you walk in the door you know by his greeting that you do. As a client, you get to sit in the only barber’s chair and be truly listened to about what’s going on in your life, what’s important to you. He always has people waiting for appointments, and I suspect that it’s his gift of presence and engagement that keeps people coming back.
Why is it such a rare and remarkable experience? I grew up in the environment of my dad’s variety store, where people from all walks of life came in daily for coffee, conversation, and connection. It was a friendly gathering place, a tradition that my family kept going for over 50 years. There were no cell phones then. People talked to each other.
Today, we see couples or group of friends out to dinner texting rather than conversing. A friend’s daughter chooses not to go out at night because she feels she can touch base with more friends by being online. What are we afraid of missing?
The other day a friend noticed a mom with her six-year-old daughter out for dinner. The daughter sat and ate in silence while her mom spent the entire time surfing the Internet.
Another friend of mine, Transformation Coaching author and spiritual teacher Jo Mooy, once wrote about witnessing a three-year-old girl at a festival trying to get her dad to look at her drawing, but he was too busy surfing online and talking. Would these children have said it was better to do two things at once, when they were obviously not part of the equation?
It reminds me of Harry Chapin’s song Cat’s in the Cradle, a poignant story of a father and son who miss important moments throughout each other’s lives saying, “We’ll get together then…” But “then” never comes. Will we be feeling the same remorse years from now, when we’re thinking about our children, parents, or friends whose lives we missed out on?
How are you experiencing personal connections these days? When was the last time you had a conversation and weren’t doing something else? Now don’t get me wrong. I love today’s instant access to music, videos, terabytes of information, and the ability to communicate with friends across the miles, but nothing can take the place of being in the presence of someone I love—to listen to them and to let them know, “I care about you. You matter.”
In the end, these are the moments, the quality connections that we’ll remember. Let’s make them good ones!
Linda Commito, author, speaker, entrepreneur, consultant and teacher, is passionate about her vision to leave this world a kinder, more compassionate and interconnected place. Her award-winning book of inspirational stories, Love is the New Currency, demonstrates how we can each make a positive difference in the lives of others through simple acts of love and kindness. Visit http://www.loveisthenewcurrency.com for more information and/or to sign up for an uplifting monthly newsletter. Read about everyday acts of kindness on http://www.FB.com/kindnesscollaborative. Linda believes that in order to inspire a kinder world the place to start is with children. She volunteered at a Title One elementary school, working with over 500 students, to create and facilitate “Kindness Starts with Me,» a program which includes a website (http://www.kindnessstartswithme.com) and a book for children.