The other day I was out for lunch with my mother and sister, and I noticed they were suddenly disgusted with something that was happening behind me. They told me that at the table behind me, a man and his little girl were out apparently on a breakfast date. That is great of course, but then they mentioned the father seemed fixated on his phone and was virtually ignoring his young daughter who was seated right beside him.
She was even trying to talk to him and ask him questions, but he apparently found the phone more engaging for the most part.
Sadly, it’s a common sight these days.
How many of us have noticed a couple in a restaurant waiting for their dinner, and one of them – or worse, both of them – are busy texting someone or looking up some detail online that simply couldn’t wait until later. We see these scenarios all of the time. Why is it that a piece of technology has this power over us, and can distract us from speaking or engaging with the person/persons we are actually with at the time? Are we that uninteresting to others that we can’t sustain their attention? What exactly is going on here?
And why is it that it is almost irresistible to check a text when we hear that notification sound? We pull out our phones – trying to be subtle – and see who it is that is making contact. And this can be right in the middle of a special family gathering or dinner, when we are surrounded by loved ones and perhaps folks we rarely even have the joy of seeing.
I thought a lot about that dad in the restaurant over the next few days. I was disgusted.
I’m not a father, but I knew that if I were, I would certainly never choose to be glued to my phone if my child was seated next to me and trying to talk to me.
But then a funny thing happened – something along the lines of the saying, ‘The pot calling the kettle black’.
Not long after the restaurant incident, I headed over to visit my mom. I always enjoy visiting mom – she’s a great person, an interesting person, and she’s always wanting to know how I’m doing and how my day went. Just an all-around caring, considerate mom. Well, of course we talked.
But then I noticed someone texted me. So of course I pick up the phone to see who it was. And of course I have to respond. I must. Never mind that I’m in the presence of someone who is enjoying my company. I send off a text and then put the phone down on a nearby table. And maybe that was part of the problem – the phone was too nearby.
Well, along comes another notification. Funny the way it goes – again I’m texting, texting, texting. And then something comes up on TV that I think would be pretty interesting to Google – just to garner some more information of course.
Then I put the phone down again. Then I pick it up again. Down again. Up again. After a couple of hours, I was inwardly feeling a bit bad that I couldn’t resist this little contraption even when I was a guest in someone else’s home.
And it’s not like I wasn’t communicating with my mom. But I was distracted – for no good reason whatsoever. There wasn’t a single reason to text anybody. Nothing critical was happening on the other end of the line. No emergencies. Nothing that couldn’t wait. I was just giving into the lure of the smart phone.
By the time the evening was coming to an end, my mom mentioned something about smart phones in general. And then mentioned how I had pretty much been on mine much of the evening. My heart sank.
I was no better than the father in the restaurant. I was doing the same thing – letting the attractions of instant communication and instant fact-finding get in the way of conversation, and of simply enjoying each and every moment of someone’s company who I deeply care about.
Never again. I have promised myself that from here on in, when I’m visiting others, my phone shall be on silent – it will be ignored, shut off, left in the car – whatever I have to do to help pry my fingers off the thing and give my full and undivided attention to whoever I happen to be with.
I hope that dad in the restaurant will make a similar choice.