The advances made in the last few decades have been rapid and incredible; bringing us amazing results, but managing technology etiquette is becoming increasingly difficult. Smart methods of communication have evolved so fast there is a downside, which we humans are struggling to address. If we do not want Smart to stand for Stealer of Mind, Autonomy, Relationships and Time, we need to learn how to master its usage in an increasingly busy world. It is not just about politeness or even time management, it is about attention management, which is even more important.
We deliberate long and hard before we make a financial investment. How careful are we when it comes to spending our time? The ultimate luxury in the 21st century is time affluence. This is when we have time to do the things we want. Time is a scarce and valuable commodity, yet we cast it aside; we squander it shamefully, as described by Tony Crabbe in his excellent book Busy.
Being busy is a fact of life that we all suffer, but it can also be something we aspire to be. Every day you see people in all sorts of ways trying to demonstrate how busy they are. It is an illusion that the world cannot function without our presence. It comes from our deepest fear; that we don’t really matter, that we are unimportant or meaningless.
How did we ever run successful businesses before? Although designed to save us time and be less busy, in reality, technology can be our greatest time robber. Unless managed correctly, it is not only stealing our precious moments and mental wellbeing, but I fear it is also destroying social courtesies. How often do you ‘phub’ someone (Tom Chatfield’s expression for snubbing people by using your phone)?
If you believe you are truly indispensable then I suggest you read the poem about the Indispensable Man by Saxon White Kessinger. You could also consider improving your leadership and delegation skills. Putting it bluntly, graveyards are full of people who thought they were indispensable, but the world of commerce still turns. How many people on their deathbed wished they had read more emails or tweeted one more time?
Servant or Master?
Instead of a loyal servant, technology is becoming our master; demanding our attention and obedience every hour of the day. We are not being press-ganged into this; we are choosing to become a slave to silicon chips?
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds! Marcus Garvey
It is becoming an addiction with our desire for that ‘snort’ of dopamine each time we get a message, a like, or a demand for our attention. Dopamine is identified with not just pleasure, but a desire for more. We get excited and pleased when we get what we want, but then we find it is not enough and we want more. This applies to the social interactions we get through smart and app technology and social media. A situation not missed by the advertisers or gambling companies. There is growing scientific evidence to endorse these concerns.
I am not a technophobe, but as Hans Christian Anderson taught us in his story, The Emperor’s New Clothes, the lone brave voice in the crowd needs to shout out against the madness of the crowd.
“We judge ourselves by our intentions, but others judge us by our behaviours” Carl Rogers
As we do things regularly, they become the new habit and we may not even be aware we are doing it or the impact it is having.
At the start of every training course, we agree expectations about use of mobile phones and other devices. They are to be switched off or put on silent to avoid distraction. Whilst accepting emergencies do occur, people are showing an increasing dependency to constantly look at their phones or smart watches; and even share this with the person sitting next to them. The impact on learning can be enormous.
Caroline Brewer‘s view as a wellbeing coach is:
“For me there are three major implications of people checking mobile phones during training events…
- Distraction – Both the person checking and others who notice this happening, will be distracted by their own thinking around the action. We don’t get to see the amount of energy this distraction uses up. It easily leads to feelings of frustration and loss of connection (for the trainer as well as participants).
- Mental fatigue – Being on call 24/7 means staying in a high gear mentally; analysing, problem solving, and decision making. We know that slowing down and stepping away from the day to day allows the mind to settle and clear, giving more freedom and capacity to see even greater possibilities and potential within the training room.
- Illusion of importance – Ego – one of the benefits of individuals coming together for a training course is to build connections and a shared sense of being more than the sum of the parts. Egos are best left at the door! The checking of mobile phones suggests that individuals are focused on building their own self-importance. Given the illusory nature of the ego (it comes and goes; it’s not real) this just gets in the way of connection, clarity and wisdom.”
This is not just happening on courses, but in meetings too. An executive told me how his CEO was constantly looking at emails on his smart watch whilst in meetings with important clients. He was unaware of the habit or what impact this was having until it was highlighted to him.
I have also experienced people answering phones or working on their computers during presentations, network meetings and team briefings. You only have to look round a restaurant and see the number of people not engaged with the person opposite but on their phones. It happens in family life, concerts and sporting events too. What impact is this having on important relationships and being in the present moment?
People are complaining of getting emails from their bosses or colleagues at all hours of the night and early morning. My suggestion is don’t take your phone to bed with you. Good grief – wash my mouth out with soap for suggesting such a thing!!
We are human beings, not human doings. In a world of too much technology, information, choices and workload, doing ‘more’ is the wrong choice. The right choice is the courageous one of being ‘different’ by breaking with social norms. Be that lone brave voice in the crowd.
The time has come to stand up, say no and break the bonds of slavery to our technology. Let’s create a strategy for setting expectations and evolve a smart technology etiquette that will protect our relationships and wellbeing in the modern world.