By Karen Mehringer
Eager to fill our hungry bellies after a full day of hiking and soaking in the mineral hot springs, John and I sat waiting for our food to arrive. Observing my surroundings, I noticed a woman sitting with her husband text-messaging with her iPhone. The couple appeared to be on vacation. Next, I noticed a man sitting with his wife and two grown daughters. He was also text-messaging while waiting for dinner. At one point, I witnessed him holding his iPhone and text messaging with one hand, while holding his burrito and eating with the other!
Astonished, I thought, “What could possibly be so urgent and important as to divert their attention away from their loved ones?” Being an outside observer, it was easy for me to judge their behavior. But, since I believe we are all mirrors for each other, I had to ask myself, “In what ways do I allow myself to be distracted from being present with the people I love?” And, “What am I missing out on when I’m not fully present with them?”
Modern communication technology, such as the iPhone and Internet, designed to help us connect, when used unconsciously, distracts us from being fully present with one another. When we give these technologies more of our time and attention than the people in our lives, we miss out on experiencing the joy of cultivating deep, intimate, fulfilling relationships. And, isn’t that what we truly desire…to feel seen, heard, loved, honored, valued, acknowledged and supported for who we are?
I encourage you to spend time evaluating the role modern communication technology plays in your life. Are you using it to connect more intimately with one another? Are these connections deep and satisfying or shallow and unfulfilling? Do you find yourself distracted when with your loved ones…frequently answering the phone, checking e-mail, text-messaging or otherwise preoccupied? Sit down and have a conversation about how the other person feels when this happens.
Consider establishing ground rules for your family about when and how you use these technologies. For example, one rule might be to turn them off when eating a meal or when driving in a car together. Notice how often you miss the opportunity to connect more deeply with those near you when you are distracted. How could your relationships be enhanced if you were more fully present?
We were designed to be in relationship with one another…to develop deep and lasting bonds with each other in which we feel safe and secure. Studies show that when we feel securely connected to our loved ones, we become more independent and autonomous. We are more resilient under stress and better able to cope in the world.
Turning off our computers and iPhones when in the presence of one another is one step we can take to further develop these bonds.
“We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.” – HH the Dalai Lama
“Life is relationships; the rest is just details.” – Gary Smalley
”Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” – Max Frisch
“People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.”
– Joseph F. Newton Men