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September, 2010:

Pause and Reflect

Pause

Image by Rafa Puerta Photo via Flickr

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. Most of this blog is about technology. But make no mistake, we are under self-inflicted attack of technological warfare.  And we love it.  But we have to remain mindful of it. We have to be mindful of it because it is only going to get worse, because technology is getting better. Think about it…let’s take one device, the iPad, a device phenomenally designed so that you can comfortably have it on your lap and be plugged in. What a great way to immerse yourself in great apps, great content, your feeds, the news, books, videos…all while ignoring those around you when you are probably already interacting with them so well….watching the tube.

I’ve had a post like this sitting in my drafts folder for months.  Fred Wilson wrote a post a few weeks back talking about “Being Present“. Similarly Brad Feld wrote a post about his four minute rule that he has with his wife. So I thought it was a good time to dust if off, polish it up and hit publish.  It’s purpose is simply to make the three of you that read it to PAUSE and reflect, even for just a moment before going to the next items in Google Reader.

With technology, we all know it is very tough to unplug and be present for the ones around you. I try to remind myself all the time of this when with the family and admittedly, don’t do the best job of it. The good news for me is have a family that will continually remind me so they keep it top of my mind…put the phone down, shut the laptop.  My personal favorite is my dad who says “Lou, is that phone attached to your hand?”  It is (or should be) obvious for most that balance is really important. This got me thinking about the pervasiveness of technology and how much it may be hindering our abilities to interact on a personal level with others, not just family but colleagues and strangers too.  Again pause and reflect.

I realize that anyone reading this post is instantly going to say that if anything technology has improved interaction with others.  The mobile device let’s you stay connected and reachable.  There is video chat like Facetime and Skype giving you the ability to communicate with others across the country and around the world.  Facebook keeps you in tune with the happenings of all your offline friends (if that isn’t a paradox in itself).  Twitter keeps me abreast of the news and what is happening around me.  And I get it, absolutely right.  That is why is such a tough topic and one that everyone has to figure out themselves.

Take a moment think about it, take stock of those around you and how they are interacting (or not) with others.  Think about the opportunities where you can interact with others and leave the technology aside for even a few minutes.  That is all you can do.  I’ve done it and here are some observations I’ve made:

  • At home – talked about this above already.  Read Fred and Brad’s posts on it.
  • In the city – As if not making eye contact and acknowledging a stranger in city was already a problem, now walk down a city street and take a look around you.  People walking and talking on their phones.  People with headphones on in their own little worlds.  People (pet peeve of mine) walking down the street and typing on their phone.  The most recognition you give is not slamming into them.
  • At the local coffee shop – Starbucks recently changed their WiFi policy making web access even easier for patrons.  Think about that though.  The coffee shop where people used to go, sit down with someone else and chat.  In the past month, I’ve been in Starbucks in San Francisco, New York and Chicago.  Everywhere it is the same.  Everyone has a cup of coffee…and their noses into their phones or laptops.  Sometimes both, while ear buds in their ears while listening to music.
  • At the airport – Waiting for my plane to depart, I think everyone at my gate was on the phone, on their laptop, charging their phone or laptop at the charging station or listening to their iPod.
  • On the train and on the plane – Same thing.  Everyone immersed in the technology in their hands.  More rare is the occurrence that you actually meet the person next you.
  • At the stadium – I was just at the Giants game this weekend.  There we are opening day, beautiful new stadium, huge crowds cheering their team, a game on the field.  What do I see?  A row of people on their phones the whole time!  Don’t get me wrong, I checked into Foursquare but then I watched the game, chatted with my neighbors and cheered for the team.

Again, I am the first one to say technology is fantastic.  I can’t stress that enough.  But we need to sneak some time back in for personal interaction…somehow.  For fun, take some time the next time you are out and take a look around you.  Pause and reflect.  Repeat.   Ok, time to go check what is on the DVR.

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