I looked around the room and realized I was the only one with my phone out.
I’m sure others had their phones close by, but I couldn’t see them. They had set aside their phones to have conversations. They were engaged with one another. It was actually an odd thing to see. Not that I never see people set aside their phones and authentically talk with one another. It just seemed odd because seemed to be a cultural thing. It wasn’t something that was forced upon them, as if someone had them place their phones in a box when they arrived at the event. It wasn’t as if people kept their phones in their hands and glanced at them from time to time. It wasn’t as if a few were consumed in games, texts, emails, Facebook, and photos, while others ignored the same things. There were no ring tones, vibrations and beeps that interrupted the multitude of conversations going on throughout the large room.
There was only chatter.
And eye contact.
With a phone, we can avoid eye contact. We often don’t have to look down at our own phones; we think we avoid many awkward moments because someone else is on her phone. We’re often grateful we don’t have to bridge that strange silence and figure out what the right thing to say or do might be.
We might avoid some awkwardness, but we also miss out on connections and possibilities. We miss out on challenging conversations that help us grow. We miss out on opportunities to help and encourage people. We miss out on the simple complexities of eye contact and facial expressions, reminding us we are not alone in the world.
Across that room, I saw people engaged in each others lives. They didn’t all know each other, but they shared that moment in time, then another and another and another. They asked questions, shared stories, discussed issues and topics, and encouraged and helped each other. They met each other where they were in moments that would have been missed if eye contact had been averted because of the phone in the way.
We engage with whatever we focus upon. Wherever our eyes go, our mind and feet follow. We can’t focus on too many things at once, and we can’t go more than one place and engage with many people all at once.
Phones are wonderful tools, but not at the expense of people.