Some friends and I had dinner last night. During our conversation, we got onto the topic of technology and how it’s so addictive—how “CrackBerry” might be a better name for BlackBerry. One friend said, “I can’t sit still anymore. If I have down time, I have to be doing something, and I usually check e-mail. And if I’m in a boring meeting, I have to check e-mail again just so I can get through the boredom.” Another friend said, “I can ignore phone calls, but if I hear an e-mail ping, I have to read it. Immediately. It’s a compulsion.”
Have we become Pavlov’s dogs?
What we didn’t discuss last night was how this behavior affects relationships. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since and I’ve looked around for examples.
Nowadays, most professors don’t speak to their students so much as the back of their laptops (and half the time the students are surfing the Web for unrelated information). At many meetings I attend, I see people using their BlackBerry or iPhone, paying attention to the speaker with one eye and their gadget with the other. Kids tied up in a video game or instant messaging grunt at the parent who comes home from work. And when people come over to visit, sometimes they only sporadically chat while checking out people’s Facebook updates than actually talking with the people they came to see.
It seems like a lot of the time we’re too distracted to focus on actual people and events in our lives. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to start saying something to tech addicts: “Pry your thumbs away from the device. Unplug the Bluetooth. Put them down and back away. Then make eye contact with someone, listen and smile. You’re not missing anything if you focus on one thing at a time!”
What do you think? Is CrackBerry a fitting nickname for your phone? Have you seen this behavior, too, or am I just old and misunderstanding something? And if you’re with me, what do you think it’s doing to (or for) relationships?