The “Iself” Generation

Let me work         Today we live in very different generation.   Gone are the days of going to your friend’s house, unannounced, knocking on the door, and hanging out all day together and talking face to face.  Gone are the days of that exciting feeling of hearing the phone ringing and thinking “Is it for me?”  Remember getting a letter in the mail when you were a kid and feeling so important?  I do miss those days.

On the flip side though, I do love all things technology.  Social media is a really great way to keep in touch with family and friends that are out of state.  Business advertising is becoming the norm on all social media sites.  I get most of the news that I want to see from my Facebook feed.  It is really nice to customize what I want to read about with just a few clicks.  Most people that have smart phones are accessible through a number of social media sites.  There are a multitude of ways to get a hold of someone, and that does make connecting with someone or a business a lot easier.  However, I question our authenticity when it comes to connecting with people.

A few years ago I was in an airport on my way home to see family.  I am a naturally talkative person and I enjoy conversation with everyone.  As I was sitting by the gate waiting to be able to board the plane, I was doing some active people watching.  Everywhere I looked, people were sitting or standing, all waiting for loved ones or to board a plane.  There were so many people that had their IPod’s, IPhone’s, tablets, laptop, and Ereaders, and ear buds in their ears, looking at a screen and tuning the world out.  Very few people were engaging in actual conversation.  I even saw a family of five all looking at their screens.  They even had a small boy in a stroller with his own tablet with a cushy case to protect it from his throws.  I kind of laughed to myself and mentally thought something along the lines of these people are so plugged into themselves they are like robots.  I mentally compared them to an army with the same directive.   The Iself army.  This particular group of people were so plugged into themselves they were missing the journey of life.

This was 4 years ago.  Since then, I have developed an active addiction to my smart phone.  Outside of writing a blog, I do everything on my phone.  I am accessible through almost every social network.  I have my personal Facebook, two business Facebook pages, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile, Google Plus, 3 email accounts, and my tablet has its own number to text with.  Rare is the day I actually talk on the phone longer than 5 minutes.  (Family in another state, or when someone is not answering a message I sent them are a few exceptions.)  I am so accessible in fact that I can have multiple conversations with my friends at the same time that I am working and I never have to leave my bed if I don’t want to.  In fact, my addiction is so active that I sleep with my phone on the bed next to me.  Once I wake up, the first thing I do is check my phone for emails, texts, news, and messages and spend a good 20-30 minutes responding to everything that happened during the 8 or so hours I was asleep.  If my phone is not with me where ever I am, I feel like part of my body is missing.

My phone addiction has caused me to miss times when my son has made a basket at his basketball practice.  I have snapped at him a time or two when he has wanted my attention and I was trying to focus on returning an email.  I have given my phone way too much attention.  I have not given my friends and family my attention that they deserve.  I have started to prefer my interactions be online or text instead of in person.  How I let a 5 inch screen become more important than my kids, I have no clue.  I honestly do not think anyone ever buys a phone or a tablet with the intention of using it to create distance between themselves and the people they care about the most.

Sadly, it seems that it is happening more and more.  Even my daughter mentioned one day she prefers to text than to actually talk to her friends.  That was a huge wake up call to me.  Of course our kids model our behavior and since I am the parent she is around the most (I work mostly from home) she is simply doing what I do.  I do not want either of my kids to miss out on life.  I am missing out on life and by default they are too.  It is way too easy to send a text or an email to a friend and have a good 5 or 10 minute chat with them through text, while I am cooking or cleaning, or helping with homework.  I feel like a good friend when I check up on my friends with a friendly text.  I don’t have to call a babysitter, or get dressed up, or go out and deal with people I don’t know.  It’s no wonder some of my friends question my relationship with them.  I am sad that I have fallen down this rabbit hole for as long as I have been.  This is not the person I am.  I am someone that enjoys live connections with people.  I used to love going out with my friends.  The convenience of multiple ways to interact made me a lazy and dismissive person.

I am happy to say that I have spent less and less time “online” and am spending more time face to face with the people that matter.  I cannot get back any of the time I have missed.  I cannot force anyone in my life to automatically understand why I didn’t see them as much last year.  I can say that I am fixing the behavior and correcting all these bad habits I have created.  I can say that I will not miss my son’s achievements in sports class.  I can say that since I have stopped relying on my phone to interact with people, so has my daughter.  She goes out more now.  I put my phone down when my son wants attention from me and I give it to him 100%.  As a result, we are much happier.

This is a very personal blog for me and it is a little different than what I normally write.  I wanted to share this with anyone that might have a similar reliance on smart phones and what not.  I have spent enough time missing out on life because I thought that a tiny 5 inch screen was enough to keep those relationships at their status quo.  I have missed out on experiences in the real world that would have allowed me personal growth.  I do not want anyone else to go through missing out on life like I did.  If my mistake will be of some benefit to someone else, then I am happy to share.  The only way to become a better version of yourself is to actively seek out new experiences that challenge your current skill set.  If someone is reading this and sees a similarity in their personal life and my words here, I ask that you put that phone or tablet down for an entire day.  Be an active partner in all your relationships that day face to face.  Give as much of your undivided attention as you can to the people you love.  I bet you will see and feel a difference in how they react to you.  Engage in your life.  I promise you that after that day, you will want to put your phone down more and more.   You will develop closer connections with your loved ones and this will create a more fulfilling life.  It might even lower your cell phone bill.