A crazy thing happened the other night: five friends and I sat down to dinner and not one of us looked at a phone. Not once.
No one took a picture of the food, amazing as it was, and no one checked a text. The sole exception was (embarrassingly) me, when, as the hour grew late, I checked to make sure the teenager left at home hadn’t been trying to reach me in some sort of crisis. He hadn’t.
As a result, there will be no perfectly composed group selfie on Facebook, no envy-inducing image on Instagram. What exists in its place is the collective memory of a dinner where every single person at the table was wholly and fully present.
We talked about all manner of things. We commiserated on the state of our nation, we shared news stories foremost on our minds, we exchanged ideas on how to address them and where solutions might be found. We spoke openly about our own struggles in meeting our intention to see other people as people first and not political opponents. And we also shared stories of our kids, our dogs and the minutia of our lives.
It was magical.
I’m not trying to phone-shame anyone. I get it. I’m right there with you compulsively checking for a text or an update. Somewhere, Pavlov is laughing. Yes, there are many, many studies looking into the psychological implications of the need for constant validation – and the whole chicken/egg nature of the situation.
I also get that there are valid reasons for checking a phone. That very night, knowing my son could reach me if he needed to, allowed me to go to the dinner in the first place. I just think that, speaking for myself at least, it’s not always healthy.
In one sense, this is a pretty basic contemplation of a pretty basic element of today’s world. I’m wondering though, if it might be more.
I am neither a technophobe, nor a luddite. Obviously, hate and violence predate the iPhone. We humans have managed to do all manner of awful things to each other from our earliest moments, so I’m not laying the current woes at the feet of technology. Not at all.
I am, however, wondering if this relatively recent ability to self-select our news on a grand scale, to have that same selected news coming at us nonstop, and to insulate ourselves from having to interact with the humans around us in our community and the world hasn’t really made a new kind of mess of things.
Is it allowing us to only see and hear what we want to be true? Is it molding our sense of what actually is real? Is it numbing us to the humanity of others? I think maybe.
Therefore, in my ongoing search to be more aware, more engaged and more connected, I am resolved to check my phone less often. I will make a mindful choice to leave my phone zipped in my coat pocket more often, and to tune in more to the actual people and events happening around me. I will “share” fewer articles, and take more action.
What are your thoughts on how to increase our collective attention to the greater humanity?
Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.