Photo by Jono Searle

Yesterday I was so tired that I saw I was getting a call from my friend and sent it to voicemail. I’ll get it later… I thought. Instead of calling her back, I texted her. Lately I’ve noticed that this has become habit. I remember I used to love talking on the phone, so much so that my mom used to hate when my friends called me. “Mejor invítale a la casa ¿no?” She would suggest that I invite my friends over instead of talking to them on the phone. I asked myself: When did talking on the phone become so tedious?

To try to get to the root of this issue, I met up with a couple of friends for lunch to do some observation. I got to the restaurant a little bit early and sat down. As I browsed the menu, all around me I saw everyone’s eyes glued on their phones. Maybe they were checking in on Facebook or tweeting what they were having for lunch, or maybe they were instagram-ing their lunch. I just smiled to myself because I know I have been guilty of doing all of the above. My friends came in and sat down. We greeted each other, but it took less than five minutes for one of us to take out her phone and look at it. Of course this only created a chain reaction and soon we all had our phones out. The phones stayed out on the table as we had lunch. We started to “catch up,” but let’s be honest, it really wasn’t “catching up”; it was more like confirming what you put up on Facebook or tweeted. This is when I realized that this was a bigger issue than just not wanting to talk on the phone.

I decided to pay close attention to my behavior on the days that followed. One such day I was down by the Museum of Contemporary Art with my friend Alex. While we were waiting for the bus, there was a girl on her phone and right behind her was a guy who was also glued to his phone. Alex turned to me and said something very interesting: “That could be a love connection right there, but instead they’re too busy to notice what’s in front of them.” I wondered if there was anything that I missed while I was on my phone, and the potential answer scared me a little.

I think we get so caught up on the technology that we have available, that sometimes we are losing sight of the value of a real conversation and the value of the real friendships that we have. We have the sense that we are together, but in reality we are alone. Most of us would rather conveniently text than talk on the phone, make a Facebook event rather than inviting friends to hang out one by one, or “creep” on our friends online rather than inviting them out for coffee and catching up.

So how can we be together and really be together? I think it can all start with us putting our phones away for a little bit. There is a quote that I read that I really liked that said,

“Putting your phone away and listening to the people talking to you, there is an app for that and it’s called respect.” Make a game out of it: next time you meet up your friends for lunch or a coffee, ask everyone to put their phones on the table; the first one to reach for their phone loses and has to buy a round of drinks. So far it has worked out great for my friends and I. Hope it works out for you as well!

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