While we love our smartphones and all the cool apps they offer, they separate us from our environment--and from each other.
With the summer of 2016 behind us, family vacations have quickly become memories, and there is a good chance that most of it was captured on our mobile devices.
In our increasingly digital world, it is easy to stay buried in our smartphones or tablets. They keep us connected to work, family, friends, breaking news and thousands of time-wasting apps. Nothing demonstrated this more strongly than the Pokémon Go phenomenon that struck like lightning.
Summer of Pokémon
Digital really went mainstream, upstream and global with the July debut of Pokémon Go. The 21-year-old-and-younger crowd, the Millennials, the now-grown Gen X’ers and even younger Boomers are now hooked.
In many ways, Pokémon Go fosters social familiarity. People by themselves or with their kids meander about with their smartphones, honing in on a particular location as if they are toting a Geiger counter. In body, they are present. In mind, however, they are somewhere far, far away in Pokémon world.
It doesn’t matter whether their quest is to capture a Bulbasaur or a Charmander or other Pokémon characters. It is obvious when someone is playing Pokémon Go. All summer I saw people dangerously crossing city streets with their eyes affixed to their screens, and walking across great outdoor spaces, parks and beaches without noticing the amazing sights, sounds and smells. I heard people talking about what they captured, where the next Pokémon “gym” is and giving each other tips.
The hugely successful Pokémon Go phenomena is not my thing. However, my inner geek loves the pure genius of the concept with its augmented reality, all the social aspects and back-end development that had to come together to make it happen.
But seeing Pokémon Go games all around me this summer also got me thinking about how we see the world around us. It feels like we are too busy looking at life through devices. We spend so much time capturing moments on our smartphones instead of truly enjoying the moment with our own senses.
For example, one of my employees was recently on assignment in Rwanda. While there, she trekked into the jungle to see the legendary mountain gorillas. With only an hour to spend with the great apes, she took lots of photos and videos with her phone—but later wished she’d spent more time just being in the moment, and less time snapping photos for Facebook.
That’s just it—while we love our smartphones and all the cool apps they offer, they separate us from our environment--and from each other. CNN recently reported on a poll from Common Sense Media, which found that 59 percent of parents said their children are addicted to their mobile devices. Most of us don’t need a study to tell us that. Having just moved two kids into college this summer, I can tell you first-hand they were more interested in what their dorm room looked like to their friends on Instagram than where they hung their clothes.
Being Present in a Digital World
As an avid cyclist, being out on the open road I cannot afford to drift off in to some memory chasm. One careless move and the results are not good. I certainly cannot let the ding of my smartphone distract me.
Sure, digital is embedded in our daily lives, but it should not consume our lives. Paying attention and being present with our loved ones, friends, partners, our customers and co-workers can bring better results all around. Think about this:
- When was the last time you sat in-person with your customer and really listened to their needs, without the distraction of glancing at your mobile device?
- Can you commit your full attention on your next virtual meeting instead of half-listening while going through your emails?
- Whether it’s teammates, customers or family, are you showing empathy and willingness to understand them, uninterrupted? No answering cell phones, answering a texts, or playing Pokémon Go?
Paying attention takes work. It’s not an end goal, but a continuous process that has the potential to enrich your life more than you think. Give it some thought. How much of your summer did you actually “see” versus what you posted on social media?
Putting the smartphone down to have a real conversation, a real experience or even lunch can make a difference in all your relationships personal and professional.
Ira Simon (@IraASimon) is global vice president, Partner & SME Marketing at SAP. Learn more about partnership opportunities at: http://go.sap.com/partner.html.