I recently saw an article about a restaurateur who had been noticing that his customer satisfaction rates and profits were dipping. Coincidentally, he had old security footage from his establishment from ten years ago (2004) that he hoped would provide insight to the lagging performance of his restaurant and staff. What might be affecting his restaurant? As he watched the historic footage unfold, the answer wasn’t immediately evident until he watched footage from the present. What was the biggest difference? These days, nearly all of his customers are glued to their smartphones. Before, people would be seated, get in a drink order, peruse the menu, place their order, and chat amicably until the courses were served. Now, the average time for a customer’s meal nearly doubled because of the smart phone usage.
After reading this article, I started to pay attention closer to home. I started noticing that my children were spending more and more time on their iPads. Even while watching TV, or taking turns playing games on a console, their tablets are never far, providing distraction for EVERY waking moment of their lives. We decided to curtail this and give them access to their iPads only after earning time by doing their chores, reading books, or other activities focused on decidedly non-technological endeavors. Weaning the kids off of their electronic devices is a straightforward approach: by restricting their usage, the goal is achieved. The challenge is considerably increased when attempting this with adults.
Self-discipline is a heck of a lot harder to achieve. Like I said, I live and breathe technology and my phone is constantly in use. The goal I set for myself is to put the phone away during meals and family time. Yes, the phone is on and I can hear the ringer, but I’m doing away with the other activities that smart phones can do. No more checking emails, browsing the web, checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. Put the phone down when you’re eating a meal with others. Put the phone away when you’re doing things with others. It’s a small goal, but one that I’m going to be actively pursuing. The hardest part is that there is no rule set by my parents or boss to not use my phone; I have to discipline myself to do it.
It makes me sad when you see a family at a restaurant and there’s no speaking between them, just everyone on their respective electronic device. I see people out on dates and they aren’t taking, just texting. Are they texting to each other? Our interpersonal skills were already disappearing thanks to the advent of texting and cell phones, but now? Smart phones and tablets are killing face-to-face interaction between friends, family, and others.
We have a powerful computer in our pocket that can access the full wonders of the Internet. You have the world in your pocket, but this convenience is costing us our humanity. Challenge yourself to cut that wireless umbilical and return to the fold. Life is made of experiences and that smartphone shouldn’t stand in the way of those.