It’s easy to castigate the obsession most people have with their phones.
It’s rare to see anyone alone in a waiting mode—standing in line or waiting on an appointment, for example—who isn’t staring at a phone. If they were reading a book or newspaper, it would seem just fine, even a worthwhile use of their time.
John Adams advised his son, John Quincy, to carry a book with him wherever he went so he would always have a “poet in his pocket” to make good use of any down time.
All of the information the world has collected is right there, in your pocket. Every poet in your pocket! Holy smoke, why not avail yourself of this modern marvel?
And social connections are no less real because the messages from friends and family are digital.
But what about when you’re with others? When is it okay to take your attention away from those physically present and instead focus on your phone?
If it’s clear that you’re prioritizing whoever or whatever is on your device over someone who is right in front of you, you’re probably coming across as rude, and you’re missing a chance for connection in the here and now.
You need to know your own boundaries and draw a line where your devices are distracting versus adding value. If it’s keeping you from being present, from seeing what’s right in front of you, from making connections in real time, put it in your pocket.
My kids won’t know a world without the internet. Their generation won’t have to struggle with making sense of this like mine is.
Imagine what will be the challenge for them, though. What’s after glowing glass rectangles?
The tools we now have to improve our lives certainly can have detrimental consequences along with their incredible opportunities. But the tools are ours. We get to decide how our devices will be used.
As awesome as it is to have so much information and communication power at our fingertips, it’s also awesome to fully inhabit the here and now, to master the present moment and the people who share it with us.