The doctor has spoken; the prescription is simple.
What a wonderful reminder—for all of us.
In their book Generation on a Tightrope, Arthur Levine and Diane R. Dean assert that our newest generation of college students is more connected and yet more isolated than their predecessors (in higher education). It has become cliché to relate examples of people choosing to relate to a piece of gadgetry rather than the human being beside them. What are more noteworthy are those rare examples when people make conscious decisions to disconnect from machines and connect to humanity.
Last night my wife and I ran into a student I taught more than 20 years ago. As a member of the Class of 1992 at Stanton College Preparatory School (Jacksonville, Florida), Vik was a gregarious and cheerful young man. During his junior year, Vik served as a congressional page for Representative Charlie Bennett. He went on to medical school and is now a doctor with a beautiful family and, as he likes to say, “living the dream.”
He, his wife, two daughters and another couple (and their two children) were enjoying a family night out. The children were sitting together, with pencils and paper. They were smiling, chattering to one another, laughing and enjoying the company. Their eyes literally lit up with excitement, as they seemed to be totally engaged in what their hands and minds were creating (together) at that point. The four adults engaged in lively conversation as well. What was noticeably absent? There was not a smart phone in sight. Not on the table, not in a hand, not in someone’s lap. One could argue, “Wait until the kids are teenagers. They will trade their paper for phones!” Possibly. But the example of the parents may make the difference.
Contrast that with another group that took a seat in another part of the restaurant. Two of the kids immediately took out a cell phone to check who knows what. One of the adults was continually texting (from my seat I could see her screen full of text bubbles). They were sitting next to one another but they were suffering from their own form of CPA—continuous partial attention.
When I asked Vik (jokingly), “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Where are your cell phones?” he explained how he worked to make sure technology did not interfere with personal connection. Even with his busy schedule as a doctor, he refused to allow social media and technology to control his life. He told me that when he is in a business situation he wants to connect with the person in front of him—not be distracted (or have the person with him distracted) by technology. Even more so during personal times.
I have written often on this blog about the benefits and challenges of social media. I have facilitated workshops on these topics. (I will be co-facilitating a webinar for the University of Texas (March 21, 2013) on using social media and new technology in the classroom.) I get it! Social media and technology is powerful. This stuff is great—when used with purpose.
A colleague of mine, Joe Cuseo, is fond of saying “People before paper.” In other words, when we work with colleagues and students, let’s build personal connections before we dive into the paperwork.
Vik and his wife remind us that it’s also “People before technology.”
Video recommendation for the week:
The doctor has spoken; the prescription is simple. What a wonderful reminder—for all of us. Disconnect.
Enjoy your week—and H.T.R.B. as needed!
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©2013. Steve Piscitelli.