Last weekend, we went to a Dave Matthews Band concert. After chatting with my husband in the car (ok, reading on my iPhone), we headed to the venue, discovering a long line of people waiting to get in.
I did what I always do when I’m bored. I pulled out my phone to check email and Twitter.
“Do you have to do that right now?” he asked. “Is it that important?”
I was stunned.
David never questions my connecting, never challenges how much time I spend online. So this really threw me.
Then I did what I always do when I don’t know what to say. I got quiet and pouted. (Ok, I know that’s rather childish, but my excuse is that waiting always gives me time to think about my anger, frustration, and response.)
Think about it, I did. All through the concert, falling asleep later, and the next day. I wanted to understand the tension.
For me, checking tweets was simply a way to pass the time. I was bored standing in line. For David, though, it was a disconnect, a separation. Even if we had nothing to say to one another, he felt I should have been in the moment.
I mean do I really want to do this? What are the guidelines for rude these days?
Am I part of the check-in culture, or am I now so bored with life, I can’t stand in line at a concert without reading my tweets? Or is it fueling the “seeking”?
The recent New York Times article about kids being “wired for distraction” was met from my community with much –is defensive anger too strong a statement? And I understand. We know social media will help us learn and connect in valuable, essential ways. But I also wonder about the other side of that–for our kids and for myself.
Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has a great book out: Focus. He says it’s “about finding simplicity in this Age of Distraction.” I don’t believe I am distracted; my online life is quite intentional. But my goal for the next few months will be to find a balance–or at least make sure I am aware of my actions.
Because I know I’ll do this:
For humans, this desire to search is not just about fulfilling our physical needs. Panksepp says that humans can get just as excited about abstract rewards as tangible ones. He says that when we get thrilled about the world of ideas, about making intellectual connections, about divining meaning, it is the seeking circuits that are firing.
But I don’t want to be like this:
The problem, of course, is that constantly perusing your phone is freaking rude â€” a clear signal that your reception is more important than anything going on in the here and now.
image: By ozjimbob
Susan Carter Morgan
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This is a significant issue. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about attention and focus. In the same way that digital citizenship isn’t simply about internet safety, attention literacy isn’t just about being polite.
We’re really going to have to start teaching this and thinking about mindfulness. This is really insuring that we control our devices and time not the other way around. There is no question that technology and connectedness has an addictive nature. We have to acknowledge that and help our kids deal with it. It’s not going to be easy, the technology is moving far faster than our understanding.
We need to get started ASAP. Sounds like you have.
Thanks for this post. We certainly are dependent on our phones and technology. At meetings, out with friends and even at the dinner table if you’re gathered with a group of tech hungry friends and/or co-workers.
We’ve adopted this technology but our kids are born into it. It’s is seldom that you’ll see a teenager or young adult without their mobile device.
Last week, CBC’s Doc Zone recently released “Are We Digital Dummies?” http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone/2010/digitaldummies/ It’s excellent and discusses many of the issues you’ve pointed out here.
Dean-your comment about controlling the devices not the other way around is right on. We often forget that, don’t we?
John- I took a look at the link you provided. Thanks…we do need to keep our awareness in the forefront, don’t we?
I love my connection devices and won’t be giving them up. But I do intend to be thoughtful about how, where, and when I use them.
I’ve had similar conversations with my wife, but we often will do it together or take turns. She checking her blackberry, me my iphone. We certainly live in a hyper-connected world, one that may appear to value virtual connections more than actual. I’m not sure that is true, there is nothing virtual that will ever replace a hug from my kids, or watching a movie and relaxing with my wife. But, there is a validation that comes from my virtual connections each time one of my tweets in RT’d, or my blog is read, or someone plays a word against me in Words with Friends.
What most interests me and what I think Dean is pointing to, is how we teach our kids to live in this hyper-connected world. Do we teach them what these connections mean? Do they understand how the start on Facebook and six clicks later they are at a website that seems to have no connection to where they started. Those clicks all have some level of connection, are we teaching our students to understand the meaning behind each of those clicks?
Tony, I know what you mean, and we really have two different strands running through this conversation. Last year at Educon, six of us sitting around a table checking our tweets didn’t seem strange at all. We managed much conversation and connecting with our extended community at the same time. Each situation mean a different awareness of what is appropriate.
I get frustrated when presenters call audience members rude when they are using devices to take notes. That is how I learn now, so I can’t imagine not being on my phone or laptop during a conference.
So, yes, it’s the becoming intentional about the use–knowing when and how to engage. And teaching our kids what it means to learn and stay focused while they click. And when it’s appropriate to step away.
My question is “What about David?” If he doesn’t usually question your connecting, why did he then? Why did he want you to be “in the moment”? It sounds like he wanted to be the one connecting with you on a personal level (face-to-face). Was this a date?
When is it not ok to connect to our devices without giving a second thought to who we are with or who we might offend? Why are we surprised someone might be offended by our twittering or such? I have done that. I have mindlessly paid more attention to my electronic device than to the person I was with. Why didn’t I realize at the time that I was communicating I wasn’t interested in their conversation or their company? I have been so focused on a device that I have ignored the breathing human being awaiting my response to the question I didn’t hear them ask. The device can wait, after all. This post was a reminder to me that I need to be more considerate. Thanks for reminding me.