It’s apparently trendy now to talk about how technology and social networks have created a culture where we spend more time online interacting with people and less time focusing on face-to-face conversations. Very rarely have I had lunch with a professional friend where they didn’t stop for a moment to check their email on their phone or type out a quick status update while waiting for the main course. It’s never really occurred to me to be offended by the practice. It’s not like we’re on vacation together. We’re at lunch. For all I know they may have a very important project about to launch and are waiting on a key deliverable. While I like to think I’m the most important person in their life, the truth is I understand.
What bothers me is when my wife and I were on vacation and she was continually checking her work email. I’m sorry but this is family time…OUR TIME and although work pays the bills, a family vacation means it’s time to focus on the family. There is such a thing as work-life balance. That balance is tough to achieve these days. But you can’t blame it on social networking sites. There was a time not that long ago where that balance was simpler to achieve because it was easier to “drop off the grid.” Smartphones, wi-fi and communication platforms have made it so much easier to stay in-touch with work, home and friends. My wife looks at updates frequently in the car on her iPhone while we’re driving around running errands. I’m guilty of pulling out the laptop at home to look at my Twitter feed when I know I should be doing something more productive. I’d argue though that even this technology isn’t to blame. We are. We make a choice about how we act in various settings.
I was at a Green Day concert a while back where people in the crowd had pulled out their phones to record the show and to tweet about what was currently happening. I have to admit that my wife and I were both guilty of tweeting…although ours was done primarily before the concert began. The lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong, called out the crowd on that issue. I thought he made a really good point. He stated that this was our moment. Don’t spend time hidden behind your phone and take an active role in where we are right now. Make some noise, get lost in the music and have fun. And that’s really the key. Love where you are and what you’re doing right now. I’ve been on vacations where I spent the entire time taking photos and video so I could “remember the moment.” The problem is that I was so busy hiding behind the technology I didn’t actually get to “enjoy the moment.” Do I blame the digital camera I was using? No. I made a choice to take photos of the smiling faces rather than be one of the smiling faces. Just because our technology has changed, it’s still just a tool. How and when we use the tool is still in our hands. The choice is ours.