Don’t be distracted; get real…again!

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”  (W. Clement Stone) This little quote from a recent  Jack’s Winning Words blog post was one that I copied and put aside, knowing that there are things to write about contained in Stone’s thought.

emailAn image immediately came to mind of me headed to my computer with a task in mind, only to see that I have some new eMail and getting sidetracked dealing with it. I feel the need to answer some right away or to delete others. Soon I’m walking away, satisfied that I have handled the eMail task at hand and completely forgetting what I went to the computer for in the first place. Has that ever happened to you?

The second thing that comes to mind is a bit more disturbing. It seems to me that the rapid rise of the smartphones and tablets is creating a whole generation of people who are more concerned with what’s happening in the palm of their hands than is what’s going ontablet computer around them. Don’t take me completely wrong. I love what I can do with and on my smartphone and I’m guilty of spending way too much time looking down at the palm of my hand at my phone. What’s concerning is that there may be a generation who are becoming somewhat disconnected from reality; because, for them, reality is what’s going on in that tiny screen. They spend more time with it that they do in face-to-face encounters. I read recently that breaking up with someone via a text message is now fairly common and accepted. How cold is that?

I have found that the ubiquity of Google has taken over a part of my life. I no longer look things up or ask someone – I Google whatever it is that I need to know. That’s both convenient and somewhat sad at the same time. Fortunately that and checking eMail are the primary smartphone intrusions into my life.

I recall, when I was much younger, that some behavioral scientists of the day were similarly concerned about the impact of television on children, especially when TV kids watching TVbecame sort of a pseudo babysitter that parents could plop their kids down in front of for hours. That fear has largely proven to be unfounded. I suspect that is because watching TV, while captivating, is a very passive thing. Using one’s smartphone is interactive and, for some, about as involved as they get with much of their life. With smart-phone based technologies such as eMail, texting, Skype, video conferencing and other interactive means of communicating with another person without being there, it is possible to go for long periods feeling like you are connected without ever actually being with another human being. How scary it that?

So, getting back to our opening quote; maybe what needs to be left undone is some of this artificial “communications” and to get back to more one-on-one real face time with others. Posting on my Facebook wall or sending me a Tweet is not really the same. Try sitting down together at a Starbucks and not sitting at two different Starbucks texting each other. If you want to know where I am and what I’m doing…find me and ask me directly. At that point I’ll be with you and talking to you. What could be better?

Vincent Nichols was on to it, when he said – “We’re losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person’s mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.”  I’m pretty sure that he had our modern smartphones in mind when he said that.

The good news is that we still have the capacity for the things that we have allowed our distractions to keep us from. As Nicholas A. Christakis put it – “Social media and the Internet haven’t changed our capacity for social interaction any more than the Internet has changed our ability to be in love or our basic propensity to violence, because those are such fundamental human attributes.” The key then is to leave undone some of the things that we allow to distract us and get back in touch with our human capacities and attributes. Put down the smartphone and look around you at the real people in your world. OMG!



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