This weekend, my wife and I were at a restaurant. A family of three were at a nearby table; a mom, dad and a cute little girl about age seven. Our attention was drawn to the fact that the parents were deeply engrossed in their individual cell phones. Their eyes were glued to their phones, with their thumbs rapidly texting. The little girl sat silently staring into space.
After about ten minutes of this, the little girl began to talk to herself. Neither parent noticed. She then slid toward father and leaned on his shoulder to view his phone, obviously trying to get his attention. Thankfully, the parents did put their phones away when the food came, and seemed to engage with each other as they ate.
On another day, I saw a family that seemed to consist of a grandfather, two parents and two teenage daughters. Everyone except the grandfather was similarly engrossed in a cell phone. The grandfather sat silently and stared into space.
I don’t describe these scenes to criticize the families. I don’t know these people, and they may generally engage with each other quite well. I describe these events because they are all too common. I believe we have all seen similar scenes where people are physically present with each other, but give all their attention to their phones. It’s an all too common scene.
Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, psychologist and author of “The Big Disconnect” notes that human beings are highly attuned to reading social cues, and that kids addicted to electronic communications are missing out on the opportunity to learn very critical social skills. Today, it seems that teenagers are learning to communicate by looking at a screen rather than another person. When children grow up with decreased opportunities to read social cues, they may suffer in their ability to do so.
Social media was touted as a mechanism for increased connection. In many ways, the opposite has occurred. With so much time being devoted to electronic material, we have little time for face-to-face conversations. We miss so much, and we don’t even realize it is happening.
Consider taking a break from social media, turning it off and unplugging. Sit down for a genuine, face-to-face conversation with a friend or family member. Look into their eyes as you talk to them. Really listen, as they speak. I think you’ll like it. True connection is hard to beat.