When I travel, I usually have my head down working on something. Whether I am reading a book or working on a new paper, I consistently miss what is going on around me at airports, on trains or buses. It is assumed that I and most of you also miss a lot going on in other venues too. Don’t get me wrong, I love people watching, but over the course of the last several years I see the same thing, other people with their heads down too. We have all become so exceptionally busy with our phones and tablets. As I sit and write on my iPad, I’m a catalyst of the social ineptitude.
I look around the environment while waiting to board my plane. People, human beings, engaging in real conversations as strangers. Directly in front of me a young woman spoke to another woman about college. Behind them sat a gentleman with headphones draped around his informal dress of an old school MTV shirt, jeans and a dodgers hat; conversing with an older gentleman for some minutes. After the conversation ended I saw the younger man reach for something. Next to him sat his cell phone on a ledge. The ledge clung to furniture that looked like it came directly out of a Jetsons cartoon. I glanced up at the futuristic looking table, at the top a huge sign read: Charging Station. Then I began to think about all the possibilities for a sign like that. All the possibilities for human charging and not just electronic device charging. We have to be willing to give into the idea that ourselves, not just our devices need charging. We have to be conscious of the types of charging our bodies, souls and minds need.
The sign could hang above our beds, we recharge with rest there. It could be above the dinner table or in the kitchen; when we share in cooking and eating together we are recharging our souls. It could hang at the gym where we prepare our bodies for their full recharge and potential. However, we have to be visionaries like the phone charging station.
In order to prepare ourselves for “charging” we need to be conscious of noise. There is noise that goes on all around us. In communication noise is understood as anything that interferes with the communication between the speaker and the audience. Noise can be physical or psychological. In today’s American society phones have become not just physical noise but psychological noise. We have an unconscious instinction to have our devices on us, which leads to anxiety and all sorts of cognitive, emotional and intellectual noise. During the times of charging, the noise needs to stop. Electronics don’t have the kinds of needs that we do as humans, but it is important that we stop the noise around us when charging.
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness in psychology currently. This is a fancy way of saying “awareness in the moment.” However, can we actually achieve this state unless we gain some sort of social reboot? We are so untuned to our environments and connected to devises. We need to reboot. We need to engage socially so we slowly learn how to become independent from our devices.
But with all the physical noise going on around us and all the psychological noise in our head, how can we obtain such a state?
Then it happened. As I was writing this very article a woman around sixty years old knelt down near me. I was waiting for her to ask about my article so I could tell her about the fascinating ideas floating in my head. She knelt down to ask me how to post a photo from her phone onto Facebook. Strike 1.
Then a man in his late forties shot in between me and the woman as he anxiously and diligently spoke to the wire of his headphones to another human being on the other end. Strike 2.
I watched near me as two teenagers spoke to one another with no eye contact but instead utilized their phones while deciding what to snap chat. Strike 3.
This wasn’t just a generational reboot. It was a mass social reboot. If we don’t take care of our own human charging, we are going to crash. Mindfulness won’t be possible and social interaction will no longer be needed. We are creating noise because our minds lack real social connection. We have come to prefer fake over real, text over talk, internet connection over human closeness. It would be a challenge to actively participate in human charging. Its time for the social reboot.