The lone agave bloom overlooks the magnificent vastness of the Grand Canyon’s south rim. On the surface, from its isolated position on a remote bluff, the agave looks to exist in solitude. However, at a deeper level it has always been part of something larger: the ecosystem. Delving even further, at a cellular level, it could be posited that all things from the earth are connected through the soil, the oceans, the atmosphere and the sun.
This juxtaposition of interconnected solitude can be seen as a metaphor for how technology currently impacts our relationships on a daily basis.
Our smartphones and tablets, along with social media, have revolutionized how we communicate, allowing us at all times to be a few finger strokes away from sharing thoughts with nearly everyone we’ve ever met. Social media has birthed and fostered friendships exponentially. A mere 10-12 years ago, life would be made up of countless singular interactions, but only those that really resonated would result in a swapping of contact information with the intent of continuing correspondence and building a relationship. Now, Facebook enables you to keep in touch with anyone from your bank teller, the waitress who served you brunch to the goaltender from your youth hockey team who moved to the other side of the country.
Technology allows us to exist within a magnificent web of friends, colleagues, associates and acquaintances, but how often does addiction to our devices end up removing us from the more meaningful moments that are unfolding around us? Have you ever been to dinner with a group of friends or family when everyone is looking at their phone? Think of the last time you traveled via public transportation, be it a plane, train or bus. Can you even remember what the people around you looked like? I walked through the immense Houston airport the other day and instead of looking at the great diversity of people coming and going, I pulled my face away from Words with Friends only long enough to occasionally check what gate I was passing. These instances offer us an opportunity to exchange and bond with those sharing our space, yet the magnetic pull of our devices too often draws us away.
It dawned on me recently that, outside of work, I am looking at my phone, tablet or television so damn frequently that I rarely look at those around me for more than a few seconds. In fact, I make more eye contact with my cat Rodney than anyone else in my life. How often do you make sustained eye contact and genuinely listen with full attention to your roommate, girlfriend, husband, or mother? What about your child? Unadulterated communication goes beyond hearing words; it allows us to read countenance, perceive body language, absorb innuendo.
Seeking a stronger emotional connection and to distance ourselves from the constant craving for sensory stimuli, my girlfriend and I have made a pact for 2018: For at least one full minute each day, we are going to look at each other without distraction. No other rules – we can talk, or not. We can touch, or not, as long as we devote a minimum of 60 seconds to each other.
I challenge you to do the same with someone special in your life.