You may remember my post from quite a while back about reconnecting with an old friend. I made a vow in that post to keep in touch with him by any means possible and also mentioned that I hoped to have a chance to to see him race the next time he was in Oregon. Well, I kept my vow and I got the chance to do just that this past weekend at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend.
It was incredible to see him and his teammates race. The drive, self discipline, physical strength and tenacity that cyclists need to have to be able to compete at that level is not something I have the mental strength to muster and I admire it immensely. What was even more incredible was that my friend, Frank, and I had not seen each other in person in ten years, yet when we met for lunch and later that night for his post-stage carb-loading dinner, neither of us could remember how long it had really been and it certainly didn’t feel like ten plus years. It just felt natural for us to be hanging out together again and we quickly fell back into the same bantering brother-sister relationship that we had in high school. It was refreshing to discover that we had the type of friendship that can survive a ten year gap, cross country moves, each of our marriages, and becoming a parent. It is the kind of friendship that fits like an old broken-in pair of shoes.
While we were having lunch together we got to talking about what each of us was up to in our lives and of course talk of my interest in social media and mobile technology came up. Frank enjoyed giving me shit for being so connected, just like he did in high school except then he would have been giving me a hard time about whatever poor decisions I had made in my choice of boyfriend. We talked about how sometimes it feels like people are too connected and how nice it can be to step away from it all. He even joked that he might get rid of his smartphone and go back to a dumb phone. Don’t do it Frank!
After lunch, as we were walking away, my husband looked at me and said, I think that is the first time I have seen you get through an entire meal without checking your iPhone once. The sad thing is he was totally right. Rarely do I get through a meal or lets be honest a five minute period without feeling the need to check my iPhone for email, take a picture, upload a picture, check-in, post an update, read an update, send a text message or make a phone call. Even more sad, I am not the worst of my kind.
I often hear about or have witnessed business meetings where everyone has their eyes burned into their smartphones, even the clients, and no one is engaged in the in-person conversation. Collaboration is missed, ideas that need brainstorming remain unhatched and people leave the meeting not knowing what just happened only to schedule a useless follow-up meeting. I have even had people text me from across the table during a meeting and I am guilty of returning that text. I have witnessed people bragging on Facebook about the lovely intimate meal they are enjoying with their partner only to have that partner immediately comment on their post. I have often looked around at a restaurant and seen whole tables of adults and their children on some mobile device or another and I have been that family. How can life be “intimate” when you are texting or Face-booking back and forth instead of having real conversations?
So what is the appropriate amount of mobile attachment? I am torn on this subject. The early technology adopter in me wants to be connected all the time. Sometimes I think if I could I would implant an iPhone directly into my brain waves. Yet the mother, friend, and wife that I am wants so badly not to be so dependent on this technology. I don’t want to miss the precious joys, foibles and follies of my kids lives because I am too busy trying to get the best Instagr.am shot of each event. I don’t want to feel anxiety or frustration when I am going over a mountain pass and suddenly lose my internet connection. I most certainly don’t want to miss out on a reunion with a dear friend because I am worried about analytics tracking, Klout Scores, or responding to a Tweet quickly enough.
So, the conclusion I came to this weekend is that I need to find a bit better of a balance. I was definitely tipping the scale of over-connectedness and in danger of missing out on the now. Social Media and mobile devices are my passion, they are an integral part of society and the one technology that really makes me tick professionally, so it is important for me to make room in my life for them. Although they can be a distraction, these technologies also have the unsurpassed ability to keep humans in touch across a decade or even across the world. Without social media I may never have reconnected with Frank, and for that alone I am grateful to have been plugged in. I just need to make sure it doesn’t consume me, that I pause to breathe in the now and to give an old friend a hug when I see him in person, not send him a text across the table.
So the next time you are having lunch with me and I look around and see everyone buried in their mobiles, I will be the first to say “Excuse me waiter, there is an iPhone in my soup”