I couldn’t help but feel somewhat agitated, or maybe it was actually a bit sad, as I sat observing those around me while having a pedicure a few weeks ago. I witnessed:
- One woman arrive talking on her phone, followed by her choosing a polish colour using hand gestures and continuing to speak on her phone throughout her service, and finally paying and leaving while still on the phone. No “thank you” was expressed to her aesthetician.
- Two other women who, while sitting in their chairs for a pedicure, did not look up from their phones once, and said no more than two words to their aestheticians during the entire time of their service.
First, if you have ever had the privilege of time and resources to sit relaxing and have someone work on your feet, it is in itself something to be grateful for. Second, to have someone bathe, prep, and pamper your feet to look pretty, and in return not give that person any attention is (in my opinion) disrespectful and perhaps even rude. Not to mention a missed opportunity to engage in a conversation with someone with different thoughts, dreams, background, and experiences – someone we could actually learn from.
It seems we often relinquish the beauty of engaged conversation for a mobile device, whether partially or fully paying attention to others around us. We see it over and over: in coffee shops, restaurants, grocery line ups, salons, sporting events, in the car, in meetings, and more.
If “down time” dictates review of time sensitive emails or a series of responses via text, so be it. But holding your phone in the face of others sends a message that they are far less important (as a physical human presence) than those engaged digitally via your phone. Are we so self important that we deem emotional, spontaneous human connection no longer necessary?
Yes, smartphones provide information at your fingertips, but one thing they can’t do is impart knowledge, lend wisdom, and share life experiences. Those are the kind of things that fill your heart, motivate your mind and fill your spirit… and only authentic human connection can make that happen. Your device can’t fill your soul or build memories with you.
The kind of knowledge we received from our grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, and co-workers…how I would love to have a conversation with my grandparents now. I can only imagine how different the questions would be, from those I asked as a teenager, and how differently they would see the world now, full of technology and “things” that distract us. As a society, we could use greater focus not only on real human connection as it happens, but also in written communication. Too often I hit “send” without recalling exactly what I wrote. What a rush life has become, and for what?
It’s not a small challenge to solve, and there’s no silver bullet (I’m guilty of this “multitasking” as well). And perhaps it doesn’t need to be solved more so than it just needs moderation. It’s about want and need.
As middle-aged professional women, it’s our responsibility to be an example for the generation of women that follow us. We are just as guilty of letting our devices distract us amongst our day, but our wisdom in sharing the beauty of conversation cannot be understated. We need to impart the value of continued human connection and curiosity to learn from others, to ensure the art is not lost in compromise to the Google machine.
Of course, our devices are an important means of communication and a wealth of information. But there’s a time to put them away, to give attention to the other living human beings present with you, and to both observe and enjoy the moment. Take it in and stimulate your senses. Why? Because we need to be the change we wish to see in the world and because we can!
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