Capturing someone’s full attention while communicating with them is becoming increasingly difficult in our connected world.
This is not because we are trying to interrupt people who are multi-tasking because people who multi-task are foolishly attempting to juggle several tasks at once in a vain attempt to be more productive. Instead, people who are constantly staying engaged through email, text messages and social media are spreading themselves out too thin, by focusing a part of their attention to continually scan for opportunities to optimize the best activities and contacts at any given moment.
Linda Stone calls this a state of “continuous partial attention.” This has become a significant social problem in part due to the blurring of the lines between work and personal time as a result of advances in the technology we use to communicate.
Technology offers illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship
Even during our leisure time we feel pressure to stay connected, and there is an allure to this which we are all susceptible, states Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together. “Technology offers the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.”
Turkle goes on to lament that in the 21st century public places like cafes have become mere social collections, where people are connected to networks but inaccessible to those around them. Not surprisingly, we have come to expect more from technology and less from each other –and this is definitely a problem.
We need to give our full attention to the people and moments in our lives that matter
Michele Kambolis is a clinical therapist and author of Generation Stressed. “While technology can serve as a powerful mechanism towards education, global connection and harmony, when it begins to interfere with the basic human need to cultivate connection and attachment then we have become a culture in crisis,” Kambolis says. “Studies show that pervasive internet use has negative effects on memory, is related to sleep problems, school difficulties, inattention, obesity, impatience, relationship problems and narcissism.”
She also draws attention to countries like Germany that have banned managers of large firms like Volkswagen and BMW from calling or emailing staff outside of work hours. Such efforts aim to improve work-life balance and allow parents to spend more quality, disconnected time with their families.
It’s important for your children to disconnect too
“It is also a concern that children growing up in this environment spend less time engaged in other activities critical to developing empathy, emotion regulation, literacy and basic attachment,” says Michele Kambolis. “Disconnecting from technology gives children the kind of brain rest they need to synthesize information and even develop their sense of self. When children stay connected to their devices, they have shown to suffer from poor grades, lack of peer connection, and deep unhappiness.”
She suggests that for this reason we need to set boundaries, not only for ourselves but for our families.
Some other suggestions she makes are powering down at dinner time, in the car, and creating screen free zones by removing television and computers from rooms in the house like the bedroom. If we do that, we will not only sleep better, but live better. Read more about Michele’s suggestions for regulating children’s technology use in her book, or through her weekly column featured in the Vancouver Sun, titled: “Parent Traps.”