I had family visiting from California this weekend, and was very glad to be able to take time off from work and everything else just to be able to spend it with them. It’s precious time I’ll always remember.
In the midst of our happy chatter over brunch this morning at a great local diner, however, I noticed something which made me incredibly sad. Seated at the table adjoining ours was a mother and daughter, both facing each other, but not in communication in the least. As my family laughed and talked, I noticed the quiet blanketing their table, the pretty but sad face of the daughter staring blankly at Mom, waiting for the conversation that never came.
Mom was curled around her cell phone as she dined, glancing up only occasionally. I actually commented on her behavior at one point to my party, though I doubt she heard me, engrossed as she was in the apparently fascinating world of T-Mobile.
At the end of their meal, Mom actually snapped her fingers in her daughter’s face as she tossed her the credit card, never ceasing her other conversation. Daughter trotted off to pay the bill, and that was that, Sunday morning brunch concluded.
Instances like this remind me how important it is to be actively enjoying and experiencing the moments we’re paying for, no matter the scale. Cell phones, Blackberries and the like make it simple for anyone to reach us anywhere, but also for anyone to interrupt us in the middle of anything. Emergencies are one thing, but to turn aside from the ones you’re with to focus on someone else tells them they don’t rank too highly within your social hierarchy.
Why spend the time or the money to go out for a meal with a loved one at all if your actions are going to tell them they’re not significant enough to receive your undivided attention? Why lay money out for an experience if you’re not going to be fully there?
In our wired society, are we starting to lose our intimate and special connections to others in the name of being constantly connected? More and more, I feel plagued by this type of social multitasking, and don’t really see anyone benefiting from the extra money we spend to be eternally reachable. I’m sure employers love to be able to reach their staff at any time, especially when a server starts misbehaving, but when the workday’s limits dissolve, employee morale and productivity generally suffer.
How do you switch it off?
Published or updated November 11, 2007.