Next time you walk down the street, notice how many people make eye contact with you and how many have their eyeballs glued to their phones. Parents are missing children’s swim lessons, car conversations, their observations while walking, just to name a few. They may be physically there, but lost in cyberspace. Face-to-face meetings are often interrupted by the incessant pinging of our devices. Even exercising has become an excuse to disconnect from our surroundings (think runner blasting loud music in his ear buds, missing the sound of birds chirping on the path). We have sacrificed the ability to engage with what is actually happening, in exchange for the endless outlets that give us a loud speaker over internet waves.
In becoming so detached from our surroundings, we have locked ourselves into virtual living through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Most of us are unconsciously starved for attention and validation. We often look for a distraction from the present moment – as if what’s happening online is more important than the people, places and things we encounter. Every few minutes we check our phones to see if anyone has emailed, texted or commented on what we or others post. Yet all this time, we don’t realize that we are merely cutting ourselves off from our “real” lives in the here and now. Every moment is unique and only comes around once. But if we are not fully present, it is missed and gone. Children become adults in no time, a year flies by in the blink of an eye, and where were we? Sending out tweets, uploading photos or scrolling through news feeds that really don’t matter.
So what can we do? A very wise person once told me to schedule a single time during the day to do social media and email. Instead of checking all day long, choose a time to sit down and bang it out with your favorite app, but set yourself a limit (use a timer if needed). Once your allotted time is up, walk away from the computer, put your phone down and take a few deep breaths. Look around as if you were seeing things for the first time. When in the presence of others, especially your children, keep your phone on silent and try not to look at it until you are alone. Give your full attention to those who have taken time to spend with you. Go for a walk, paint, read, listen to music or meditate. What did people do before computers and cell phones? Go back to the basics and just once a day, replace those minutes using devices with a tangible experience – without cyber distraction. Connect by making eye contact and take in your surroundings and each other with your full attention because this moment will never come again.
Try this video for simple techniques that relieve stress and help you become more aware of your internal and external environment.