I was at a restaurant recently when I became aware of a young boy and his father who were having lunch not far from where I was seated. What caught my attention was how focused the father seemed to be on his Blackberry. In fact, for the hour they were at the restaurant, there was probably only an intermittent 20 minutes when the father wasn’t either talking, texting, or reading material on his device.
I found it a difficult scene to watch, and especially sad to see this child surrender to the predicament of being seemingly invisible to his father. He just sat there quietly eating his sandwich as he observed his dad send and receive messages, and talk on his phone as if he wasn’t even there. Of course, I wouldn’t for a moment conclude that this father didn’t love his son. How could I? But what was illustrative to me – and perhaps more poignantly than ever before – is the degree to which our obsession for being ‘in touch and connected’ via our various forms of technology, can so often result in the opposite. Being fully engaged and emotionally (and not just physically) available to experience the special, or important, moments in our lives, might just mean making the decision to temporarily turn off the ‘outside’ world that so often seeks to steal us away.
Therapists are no exception to this type of technological seduction, at least not this one. Recently, my sister and I were on our way to run an errand at a local shopping centre. After we parked the car and began walking toward the store we were aiming for, we both automatically pulled out our individual tech devices to check our emails and texts, and respond accordingly. After a couple of minutes of parallel tapping on our phones, we simultaneously looked up at each other and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. We realized that we reflected the perfect stereotype of the New “Connected” Age. We immediately pocketed our devices, but it gave me pause to consider how, like a society of Pavlovian’s, we’ve permitted ourselves to become so easily seduced by the “call (the email, or the text) from beyond”.
So you might want to stop to consider how much your particular device ‘owns’ you. And, if you find that it does, why don’t you take a moment to ask yourself what this ‘ownership’ reflects about you. For example, is using your device a way to avoid or distract you from particular people or situations? Does it make you feel less alone and isolated? Are there times when you’re more vulnerable to the “call” of your device? And, if so, why is this the case? A few minutes in quite reflection might, in the long run, result in helping you make healthier decisions for you, as well as for your relationships.