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  • Present, But Not Available

    Present, But Not Available…
    by Suzanne St. John Smith
    August 10, 2010

    I was at a restaurant recently when I became aware of a young boy and his father who were having lunch not far from where I was seated. What caught my attention was how focused the father seemed to be on his Blackberry. In fact, for the hour they were at the restaurant, there was probably only an intermittent 20 minutes when the father wasn’t either talking, texting, or reading material on his device.

    I found it a difficult scene to watch, and especially sad to see this child surrender to the predicament of being seemingly invisible to his father. He just sat there quietly eating his sandwich as he observed his dad send and receive messages, and talk on his phone as if he wasn’t even there. Of course, I wouldn’t for a moment conclude that this father didn’t love his son. How could I? But what was illustrative to me – and perhaps more poignantly than ever before – is the degree to which our obsession for being ‘in touch and connected’ via our various forms of technology, can so often result in the opposite. Being fully engaged and emotionally (and not just physically) available to experience the special, or important, moments in our lives, might just mean making the decision to temporarily turn off the ‘outside’ world that so often seeks to steal us away.

    Therapists are no exception to this type of technological seduction, at least not this one. Recently, my sister and I were on our way to run an errand at a local shopping centre. After we parked the car and began walking toward the store we were aiming for, we both automatically pulled out our individual tech devices to check our emails and texts, and respond accordingly. After a couple of minutes of parallel tapping on our phones, we simultaneously looked up at each other and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. We realized that we reflected the perfect stereotype of the New “Connected” Age. We immediately pocketed our devices, but it gave me pause to consider how, like a society of Pavlovians, we’ve permitted ourselves to become so easily seduced by the “call (the email, or the text) from beyond”.

    So you might want to stop to consider how much your particular device ‘owns’ you. And, if you find that it does, why don’t you take a moment to ask yourself what this ‘ownership’ reflects about you. For example, is using your device a way to avoid or distract you from particular people or situations? Does it make you feel less alone and isolated? Are there times when you’re more vulnerable to the “call” of your device? And, if so, why is this the case? A few minutes in quite reflection might, in the long run, result in helping you make healthier decisions for you, as well as for your relationships.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Present, But Not Available started by David Baxter View original post
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Steve's Avatar
      Steve -
      for the hour they were at the restaurant, there was probably only an intermittent 20 minutes when the father wasn’t either talking, texting, or reading material on his device.
      Has technology fostered a generation of socially inept people lacking in empathy and unable to focus on the needs of the person they are with?
    1. busybee's Avatar
      busybee -
      It is interesting to note that on our local television that they have been discussing Why our children are suffering increased mood disorders, insommnia and other disorders. One expert discussed how the children are attached to their electronic devices, whereby they gain instant access 24/7 to their peers. They have now set up a program where children and teens can 'GO' where they are taken off the use of these electronic devices. As a parent, my children were not allowed to purchase a mobile phone until they could afford to pay for it. During the school week they were to leave the phone on a bench in the communal area when doing homework and turn it off and leave in the kitchen overnight. These strategies were put in place as the children where gaining instant gratification to speak to their friends, even though they had just spent the day together!!

      However, I did not ''discover" any of these devices until my separation and in the last year, the behaviours and reliance that i have placed on these devices to maintain my social networking has gone full circle. Being overly dependent on them, checking the device constantly, increased anxiety if leaving the device at home, in my car....to recognising what I am doing and putting in place mindful strategies to cope. It is with some shame that I recognised that I a nearly 50 year old woman could indeed become mindlessly addicted to my devices.

      How then when our work or organisation also imposes on us a device for us to be available 24/7 to their needs. At what time does the company not own you. There must be I feel strategies built into your contract or work agreement when you negotiate down time to BE available for your private life. If you run a business.... how did they run successfully prior to these devices. Our world has benefited from these devices, but we need to manage the effect these devices have on all aspects of our lives.