I like communication. I believe that every person I meet is an opportunity for me to improve and/or enhance myself. Every encounter is a chance for me to observe and discern character qualities and mannerisms that I could benefit from by emulating or avoiding. They are opportunities to hear another perspective, see a different side and walk a while in a different pair of shoes.
As a 20-something, I often feel torn between two generations. I am old enough to remember a day when internet was not a common household commodity, and when we were one of the select “cool” families because in less than 20 minutes, we could dial our way into the World Wide Web. And I greatly appreciate the value of face to face communication and off-screen interaction. However, I am also young enough to acknowledge that my 100+ WPM typing skills are entirely credited to AOL Instant Messaging and MySpace. I now use Facebook/Twitter/Blogger/Texting religiously and am more often than not content with receiving and sharing all of my daily information and communication in 140-character increments.
Recently, I attended a conference in Phoenix with a group of my colleagues. As we sat on the hotel patio enjoying our lunch hour, one colleague commented on the copious amount of conference attendees glued to their technological devices. I began to look around and noticed that our entire table was either staring at a phone, iPad or computer screen, and so was roughly 95% of everyone else at the conference.
After our lunch had concluded, we went back into the main room for the next conference session. As I looked around, I noticed that even during the speaker’s presentation, a majority of the people in the room were not taking notes, but rather checking emails, shopping online, instant messaging friends or colleagues, or texting. I had to agree with my colleague’s observation- though there were hundreds of people at this conference, no one was actually there.
Being in the advertising field, I get it. Work goes on, even when you are not in the office. I understand the need to check emails and texts and to keep things moving. That being said, the purpose of my being at this conference was to actually learn something that would help me be more productive and efficient back in the office- so wasn’t I defeating the purpose by keeping to my old ways rather than taking some time to learn new ways? I was surrounded by professionals from a myriad of successful companies- couldn’t I benefit from taking my eyes off of my existing contacts status updates and instead learn about a new individuals life and how they conduct business?
We live in a world that says the busier we are, the more important we are and the more successful we are. We live in a world that praises 80+hour work weeks and constant connection to iCommunication devices. But we are missing out on so much valuable information, and life in general, by refusing to be present. Using myself as an example, I work a standard 8-hour work day. Let’s say I am at my computer for 7 of those 8 hours (Probably 1 to 2 hours on weekends.) Let’s also suppose that I watch an hour of television in the evening, an hour checking my personal emails, online accounts, social media, etc., and spend about an hour cumulatively texting throughout the day. Supposing I live to be 85, I have approximately 744,600 total hours of life. This means on average, if my technology usage starts at age 20, I will spend approximately 189,800 hours, or 25% of my lifetime staring at a screen. Supposing I sleep 8 hours a day, I will only be present for 50% of my life.
Does anyone else stop and rethink their life when looking at those numbers? The average American will spend a quarter of their life in a relationship with an electronic screen. They will miss out on half of their life.
Challenge for the week- Spend the same amount of hours you spend with technology with your family and friends. Take a break to turn off your phone and take a walk through your local park. Call up an old friend to grab coffee, or have a game night with your family. Be intentional with your relationships and be intentional about being present, because in the grand scheme of things, 744,600 hours really isn’t that much.
For further reading and information on American time spent on technology, check the following articles:
TIME Techland: Hourly Breakdown of Hours Spent Watching Electronic Devices
SixWise: Study conducted by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design (CMD) and Sequent Partners for the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE)
TechJournal: Breakdown of Daily Time Spent on Electronic Screens