Women, life, happiness
  • How connected are cell phones really keeping us?

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    November 24th, 2010Keryl PesceFamily and Relationships, Life in general

    "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you." Just a few rooms away from each other, on March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell spoke these words to his assistant over his newly-invented telephone. Two people, for the first recorded time in history, communicating with spoken words without being in each other's presence.

    Fast forward 134 years to 2010, and it is estimated that there are over 4.6 billion cell phones in the hands, pockets and purses of people all over the world. You could be in your car, heading on 95 South at 55 miles an hour and having a conversation with your sister who is lying on a beach chair in Cancun, sipping a margarita (someone got the raw end of the deal there). It's just mind-blowing how well we can stay connected as a result of modern technology.

    Or is it?

    On one hand, we can speak to whomever we want in a matter of seconds. We can tell our husbands to pick up milk on their way home, tell our children what time we will pick them up and announce the birth of a child from just about anywhere. Clearly, this makes communicating with each other more convenient.

    Convenient? Yes. More connected? I'm not so sure.

    Yesterday, my youngest nephew invited my husband and I to have lunch with him at his elementary school. I sat at a miniature table, in a miniature chair, watching miniature people eat ham and cheese on white bread and fruit roll-ups and drink chocolate milk. And yes, it was a memorable meal.

    Next to my nephew sat his classmate, Zach, who announced to us on more than one occasion that his father would be joining him for lunch as well in five minutes. Zach's eyes bounced between his apple, his juice box, and the door to the cafeteria as he anxiously awaited the arrival of his dad – which I knew happened before I saw him. How? Because little blonde-haired Zach's face lit up as he lifted himself out of his chair to excitedly wave his father down.

    Clearly, he was happy to see his dad. Or more accurately, ecstatic to see his dad. Except at the same time, he was disappointed. "Dad, there's only five minutes left for lunchtime," he quietly shared.

    Now, I'm not being critical of Dad's late arrival. I have no idea what other commitments he had that day or what else he had to juggle to get there when he did. At least he was there.

    Sort of.

    Twenty-five short minutes for lunch, an even shorter five minutes remaining to share lunch with his son and where were his eyes and attention focused? On the little black electronic device he held in his hand – the illustrious Blackberry.

    There's the rub. Cell phones and PDA's allow us to communicate quickly, easily and efficiently, but to what extent do they disconnect us from each other? Zach's dad was there, but his attention wasn't.

    And the line is crossed. What has the capacity to augment our lives, when not kept in check, can be a detriment to our lives.

    How often have you been on the receiving end of someone who's attention is divided? How often have you chosen to allow an electronic device to interrupt your focus, your quality time with those you care about the most? What message does that send when you share a meal with friends or family, or are engaged in a conversation or activity with them and you slam the breaks on your time with them to rush to the ring, beep, tune or buzz of an e-mail or phone call? "Excuse me, but someone or something else is more important." That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

    Are there times when that is legitimately the case? Sure, but do you need your Blackberry sitting on the dining room table next to your butter knife as you share a meal at a friend's house on a Saturday night? Do you need to grab your Blackberry and try to read the incoming e-mail as you navigate the highway? Do you need to respond to a text as you spend a precious five minutes with your child? I don't think so.

    Technology definitely has the ability to improve the quality of our communication. I don't argue with that one bit. But let's be careful it doesn't come at too high a price.

    Ironically enough, although Alexander Graham Bell is credited with inventing the telephone, he considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study. Pretty smart dude, wouldn't you say?

    He recognized the power the tool gave him, yet aware enough not to let it affect his concentration. Maybe you and I should do the same.

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