One day, after an appointment with a client, I ran to the grocery store to pick up a couple of items. I called my husband to let him know I had everything, but he didn’t answer. I called a second time, but he didn’t answer again.
Now, I’m notorious for not answering my phone every time it rings. If I’m with someone— it doesn’t matter if it’s a friend, one of my daughters or a client—I don’t stop what I’m doing to answer the phone; I believe that the person I’m with deserves your undivided attention. I also don’t check my email or texts every hour. My goal is to always answer within 24 hours, but I’m definitely not tied to technology.
Back to “no answer night.” Like many people, Larry always has his phone with him, and unless he’s with a customer or involved in a project that can’t be interrupted, he picks up when it rings. On Thursday, I knew he was either on the road or at home by the time I called, so when he didn’t answer twice, I became concerned because I couldn’t reach him.
We are so connected that if someone doesn’t pick up the phone or text back right away, we get worried or annoyed. With landlines, mobile phones, emailing, texting, instant messaging, and tweeting, we’ve come to expect immediate feedback. I grew up in a generation where television shows were aired in black & white, on three channels and telephones not only weren’t cordless, they had “party lines.” I wrote term papers on a typewriter and fixed mistakes by inserting white correction tape and typing over it the error. Invitations were delivered by “mailmen,” milk was put in a silver box on the back porch, and we had dinner together every night, at home, without any electronics.
Technology can be fantastic; I can order color samples for clients, research sources for furniture, and write blog posts that can be easily altered, all from the comfort of my own space. There are considerable advantages, like the wealth of information available, literally, at our fingertips. And, we can connect with each other quickly and easily.
We’re able to communicate with people almost anywhere, global partnerships are much more viable, employees can work remotely, people who have disabilities that preclude them from leaving their homes can be connected despite the physical barrier. The list of benefits goes on and on.
What’s concerning is that we should have so much more time, but it often seems like we’re more harried and over-extended than ever. We over-communicate, but how often do we genuinely communicate in this instant gratification world that’s become adept at a new shorthand. It’s become more challenging to separate our professional and personal lives because we’re always expected to be “plugged in.” At restaurants, I see entire families glued to their devices—immersed in a world brought to them on tiny screens, devoid of human conversations. There’s texting at concerts, plays, soccer games, and faith services; we’re engaged with our electronics, not our people. Our world has been expanded and minimized simultaneously.
We’re so busy worrying about what we might be missing that we forget to pay attention to the person or experience right in front of us; we’re losing the art (and joy) of interacting on a person-to-person level. What if we put the devices away for just one day and look at each other, in person, and have a conversation. Our lives have been transformed by technology. But, how we handle that transformation is up to us.