(Dis)Connecting: Real friends confiscate each other's phones

The first thing I do in the morning is roll over and check my phone. Actually, the first thing I do in the morning is hit 'snooze' on my alarm. Both of these habits I'm trying to break, but it's a symptom of this Age of the Information Overload.

With more information so easily at our fingertips than ever before, there's a misconception we always need to stay connected, to know what's going on in the world with the people and topics that hold our interest. God forbid we should be caught off guard on a prompt for our opinion about that development in the faculty of the upper east Sydney school we've never heard about, and - yes, please forbid.

When I sleep, I set my phone to vibrate on my wooden nightstand lest an emergency come through. Thankfully, none of my friends or family are likely to contact during the night for anything less, but, even on the off chance, I maintain this as a priority.

While speaking to an older friend, he remarked how strange it was to observe the evolution of how technology has changed our social behaviour. Why, he asked, if two people were having a conversation, would one of us answer a (non-business) phone call if it came through? Why would that phone call take precedence over the conversation we were already having?

Thinking about it, I came to three assumptions:

1) the call could be critical (i.e. an emergency), 2) the call could be a new addition to an existing conversation, or 3) there is no valid reason.

For anything less than reason (1), why not let that call go through to voice mail? In fact, a lot of people do this, and it's the courteous thing to do. Unless you are expecting an important call, answering your phone is the equivalent of turning away from someone mid-conversation (even with the 'excuse me'). It's not that different from sms-ing or chatting to friends via phone when you're in the company of friends in person. Once in a while, I need to have my phone confiscated, but I think it's warranted.

Real friends - family - remind each other of manners; of our priorities.

In recent weeks, I've reorganised the news feeds I follow to make the best use of the short time I have to catch up between meetings, lunch breaks and other commitments. I can easily burn hours catching up on all the news, so I've finally learned to accept I won't always have my finger on the pulse. It's okay to catch it, once in a while, and you'd be surprised how much daily conversations will help fill the gap.

The notion that we have to stay connected is self-imposed, but - even for work purposes - there's a balance to be struck. We choose how much information to digest. We choose how to trade our time between people and computers. And while our online networks with people are important, for me, they personally don't compare with a face-to-face debate or a great, warm hug.

I choose to stay connected, but I choose my people first.

Saturday, 2 June 2012