The teens were seated in a long row, prior to the start of the play. Every head was bowed; each pair of fingers tapping away on a phone. These kids were friends, relatively good friends…….yet they were all engaged elsewhere.
I wondered what and who they were texting. Rather than being fully present with the company at hand, they felt the need to be off and away.
Were they texting other friends, sharing the excitement of the pre-play environment? Were they bragging about hanging out with friends, the very people they seemed to be dismissing as I looked on? Or maybe were they checking the weather, or maybe the stock market or doing a college search?
OR in an effort to exclude the adults from their conversation, were they actually texting each other? This last possibility is the one I prefer. Because at least they would have been fully present and engaged with those right alongside them.
Somehow, as a society, we have allowed our electronic gadgets to become the most pressing and engaging things in the room, even when the room is full of people.
We are plugged in nearly 24/7. Times that once were set aside for socializing and human interaction have become dominated by electronics. In restaurants, take a look around; you’re sure to see more eyes turned downward toward a glowing screen than eyes staring romantically at the person across the table. And if you don’t have your own electronic diversion handy, don’t worry, because many popular restaurant chains now have small electronic game consoles right on the tables to occupy their diners.
Out to dinner with an old friend recently, I had a great meal and even greater conversation. Yet, when I returned home, I saw that she had posted to Facebook about our evening…..while we were having dinner. So unknown to me, she was posting while we were still at the restaurant.
Was it because I am the very best company ever and she couldn’t wait to tell the world about my charms? Or was I so dull and boring that she needed alternate activities to stay awake during our visit?
Or was it just that this is how we all live now?
We are partway here and partway there, involved with the present company, but also afraid to miss out on what might be happening with our other friends, in the news, on Twitter, Facebook, in Hollywood, and even at the local animal shelter. Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is now recognized by psychologists as an actual form of social anxiety caused by the need to be plugged in to technology and its continuous updates.
In an article published in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, it was revealed that the average user of a smartphone there checks his or her phone 1500 times a week. That’s over 200 times a day! And furthermore, the average smartphone user reaches for his or her phone and checks for text messages or email BEFORE getting out of bed each morning! Researchers have even shown that technology use actually has a contagious aspect and people are significantly more likely to check their own cell phones simply because others have done so.
So plugged in we are and plugged we will probably stay. And while FOMO might keep some of us there, being plugged in actually leads to missing out………missing out on the people and experiences right in from of us.
So here’s an idea – On March 6th and 7th, from sundown to sundown, let’s participate in the National Day of Unplugging. Step away from it all…..the smartphone, the ipad, the laptop, even the TV.
The idea was the brainchild of a group called Reboot, who are dedicated to helping Jewish folks explore meaning in their heritage. But an over reliance on technology is certainly not limited to the Jewish community and the National Day of Unplugging can be for us all. The day takes place on the Jewish Sabbath, a day meant to be set aside for the more important things in life; things like God and family, not Twitter and Tumbler and Vine.
But it promises to be hard.
But it will be worth it, I think! So what should we do on the National Day of Unplugging?
I suggested crafting or kite flying or museum hopping. Joe suggested raking leaves, hiking or model building. Josh suggested dancing or relaxation or travel, since the unplugged day falls over his spring break!
My dearest Jake, however, is not on board yet. He suggested that this task could be psychologically impossible and that violence might even ensue!
I think I should avoid taking him to a restaurant during the National Day of Unplugging. Cause I’ve heard that I might be a bit boring in a restaurant. Without technology, Jake might just start a food fight!
Check out the National Day of Unplugging’s website. Maybe take their pledge to unplug. Hopefully, you’ll be convinced to try it too! If you do, let me know how it goes!
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