Yesterday, sitting on my front stoop, enjoying the fade of the day, a jogger ran by. I heard him coming before I actually saw him because he was jabbering on his mobile phone. Headset on, huffing and puffing, engaged in a long and detailed conversation.
He gestured to me with a head nod without breaking stride or losing the string of the conversation.
Now that’s multitasking!
It has become quite common in the men’s room of my office for colleagues to stand at a urinal in the middle of a mobile phone call. They have the phone balanced on their shoulders while they conduct their business – yammering advice to a client, catching up with a friend or a talking to a family member.
Mute – then flush!
I have yet to hear anyone talk on the phone in one of the stalls, but I imagine it is only a matter of time.
Last week, I arrived a few minutes early for an exercise class. Two other students were waiting outside the studio door engaged in gaming applications on their phones. Both were quite focused on their tasks – killing zombies or buying farm animals – that they seemed almost disappointed when the class ahead of us ended and it was time to head inside.
On the elevator ride up to my office this morning, I shared the space with four other people. All four of them wore ear buds and were listening to music on a portal device. No one spoke. No one looked at each other. Not that an elevator is a social environment, but the muted din of a variety of different music seemed very isolating.
Mobile devices may connect us with the world, but they also put us in a cocoon. They isolate us from our immediate surroundings and dull our sense of living in the moment. You can’t live in the present when you are tapping away at a keyboard or listening to a podcast or playing a game.
You also can’t think. There’s mounting evidence that people need quiet moments of contemplation or simple boredom in order to process new information and allow their subconscious minds to ponder problems and challenges. It is this downtime that allows us to have those “Eureka!” moments. Good ideas and solutions often need to simmer in the back of our minds during these quiet times before they reveal themselves.
If we are constantly filling every void in our day with busy work – texting, reading emails, chatting on the phone or building virtual zoos then we risk preventing our minds from fully expanding, from functioning at its optimal capacity.
Staying connected is a powerful tool, but so is sitting and doing nothing.
Have you seen people using mobile devices in odd places? Have you been interrupted by rude cell phone behavior? Please share your stories.