On a Monday evening back in January 2011 I was sitting in a bar in Singapore waiting for a friend to join me. It was a hot, humid evening so typical of this small equatorial isle. To while away the time as I waited I watched the people around me. As I did I wrote what follows:
Apples and Blackberrys
The fruits of your belonging
On the table… place of prominence
Screaming ‘look at me!’
Clinging to their network
As you do to yours
Talking to your colleagues
Eyes flitting from one to other
As your fingers anxiously search
The table next to your glass
Constantly seeking the reassurance
Of your disconnected connectivity
Voices compete with ringtones
Over the rumble of the traffic
And the hollow echoes of your laughter
I can’t help but ask myself
Where are you?
Are you really there?
Over 4 years have passed and I still find myself pondering the nature of the way we connect in the digital age. I would be the first in a queue to shout out my thanks for the many platforms we have these days for staying in touch, be it for pleasure or business. I embrace them wholeheartedly every day with friends, colleagues and business associates in all corners of the globe. I do admit to being dismayed, however, when I see people together yet they're unable to leave their smartphones alone - be it in a bar, restaurant, meeting or video conference call: constantly checking in & posting, replying to emails they perceive can't wait.
Now, it's not for me to judge anyone, and neither am I, however I would propose that engagement with others when we are with them, phones away, completely present in the moment is a really important thing ... it satisfies a basic human need - that of social connection with others. But then, even as I type that another question springs into my mind ... how do we, these days, define 'social connection?' My guess is a Millennial would offer a definition that is completely different to a Boomer like me. Neither would be incorrect as connection, engagement with others, is such a personal thing. One thing is for sure, though...
... I love connecting in the digital world and I cannot imagine my life without it anymore for these many platforms have revolutionised my relationships, personal and professional. That said, if I'm ever with you in conversation, a training session or a meeting, my phone will be no where in sight!