I forbid the use of electronic devices in class. It’s distracting and rude when a student pulls out a cellphone. It’s also upsetting when I see a family at dinner with their attention focused on phones instead of personal interaction. And texting while driving? It’s potentially deadly and completely unnecessary. But our screens too often prevent us from focusing and reflecting on what and who is right in front of us.
We’re addicted to our mobile devices and the access they give. They’re the dominant way we communicate, gather information, shop, and learn. My favorite recent statistic from the Kaiser Family Foundation is that on average, 8-to-18 year-olds spend 11 1/2 hours in front of screens every day!
In an article published this week in The New York Times, Tony Schwartz, author and CEO of the Energy Project, talked about “The Power of Stepping Back.” While vacationing for two weeks, he was completely offline and says it was an amazing experience. “Time without interruptions and imminent deadlines was an incredible luxury,” he wrote. “I didn’t feel rushed to arrive at conclusions or solutions. I could pursue an idea or a direction without worrying about its immediate utility. It allowed me to take a much more long-range view.” After returning to work, Schwartz built time into his employees’ workday for quiet time and meditation, designed to allow for thought and ideas rather than trying to get as much done in as little time as possible.
“It’s not possible to race between meetings and e-mail all day long, and simultaneously reflect on what all this frenzied activity is accomplishing,” Schwartz added. “We can’t think outside the box when we’re simply running around inside it. It doesn’t make sense to do more and more, faster and faster, if we’re not stopping intermittently to ask why we’re doing what we’re doing.
My PR students–and most of us–often complain about workload and stress. I truly believe our anxiousness would ease if we made time to experience the world and think beyond our screens. Your thoughts?