I remember when I saw my first cell phone. I must have been eight years old. My father showed up at my brother’s soccer game with this gigantic box dangling from his shoulder. The box must have been at least a foot tall and a foot wide – and it weighed at least 30 pounds! At first, I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I thought phones were supposed to be attached to the kitchen wall with a dangling 10-foot cord that always got tangled! Where was the rotary-dial? How could someone walk around with a phone?! This was crazy!
My amazement quickly faded, however, as I saw my father’s attention captured by this new gadget. He didn’t watch my brother play his game. He didn’t engage in conversation with those around him. He simply wandered and talked to whomever was on the other side of that mystical black box.
Fast forward 35 years, and not much has changed. Yes, the technology has become more accessible and streamlined – nearly everyone I know has a small, sleek cell phone that can fit in a pocket, even my children – but the effect is the same.
A phone takes away one’s attention from those around them. It makes others feel unimportant. Whether one is sitting in a large meeting – at a school’s Back to School Night, for example, or at the dinner table with your children – it lessens the quality of the relationship. The University of Essex recently published a study that shows our cell phones, even close by but not in use, can deteriorate interpersonal connections. Furthermore, another study showed that 89% of its participants felt that improper technology usage has damaged one or more of their relationships.
As we at Atlanta Classical work to build community and create personal relationships, we need to take these statistics to heart. If we are trying to teach our children proper cell phone use, interpersonal relationship skills and how to be courteous to others, we need to set a positive example by turning off our phones. We need to make it a habit to either silence or completely power down as we walk into the front office for Lunch Bunch, Reading Groups, Principal’s Coffees, or whatever event you are attending.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t confess that I am one of the biggest offenders. I see that little flash of light in my purse, and I have to check it. Writing this article has been quite humbling. If you see me on my phone at an inappropriate time, please gently remind me that it can wait.