Put the Damn Phone Down and Experience the Moment

Tomorrow (February 15) is Family Day in Ontario, Canada. A statutory holiday, it was originally created to give families important time with each other.

Ontario isn’t the only province in Canada to celebrate Family Day – Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia also celebrate it.

For me, it’s another reason I’ve come to love my adopted home since moving here from the UK back in December 2006.

I mean, come on – imagine the government telling you you have to take a day off so you can spend it with your family. How awesome is that?

As my friend Judy Dunn stated over on Facebook when I said I was switching off for the Family Day weekend,

You Canadians just do everything right. Family Day. Somehow I could never see this country making a day to celebrate families a legal holiday.

While [technically] I’m not Canadian, I completely agree with her train of thought.

It also makes me realize that perhaps we need to have more statutory days to encourage us to live for the moment around us, and those making it happen.

Life via a Six Inch Screen

One of my favourite comedians is Louis C.K. His knack for situational comedy stands him head and shoulders above any other comic, at least for me.

One of his stories is about a time when he was watching one of his kids in the school play, and saw pretty much every other parent with a phone in their hand, pointing it at the stage (strong language).

He’s got a point – we live our lives through six inch screens.

From romantic dinner dates to days at the beach, from trips to the zoo to watching kids play at their school sports, we’re engrossed by whatever attraction that annoying piece of tech in our hands is flashing at us now.

We’re so amazed at the high resolution pictures our phones can take of the food the server’s just presented to us that we can’t wait to share every damn detail on Facebook or Instagram.

Meanwhile, to paraphrase Louis C.K., the highest resolution images we’ll ever see are right in front of our faces – why aren’t we marvelling at that?

I asked a question in my last post about when we lost the ability to truly converse.

In a comment after the post, Mickey Gomez made a wonderful observation.

Listening truly is an art form. It means pushing aside your thoughts and reactions and just being present. It means not making it about you, or trying to solve something and move on, but just being willing to receive information in a way that makes the other person feel heard. It is extraordinarily difficult, especially in our current age of excessive distractions.

Two things stand out for me in that statement.

  • “It means pushing aside your thoughts and reactions and just being present.” So many of us have forgotten to be present. Sure, we may think we’re “present” – but there’s a huge difference between being present and being there.
  • “It is extraordinarily difficult, especially in our current age of excessive distractions.” Our obsession with our phones is the biggest distraction to true happiness that I can think of. Why is that – why are they so important to us?

I get it. Sometimes we need to be on. Hell, my wife and I both have jobs where we’re on-call 24/7, so our phones are usually within alert distance if needed.

But that’s the key point – if needed.

Focus on the Experience

Just to be clear, this post isn’t meant as an admonishment – I have zero idea of your life, and the priorities in it.

I know there are times when you have to be on the phone at all costs, because someone’s life may actually depend on it.

But for all these other times, have you ever sat and thought whether a moment you were enjoying really needed to be recorded, captured and shared?

  • Will that moment never happen again?
  • Will that moment be forgotten without a picture or video?
  • Will that moment be ruined in-person because – for a minute or two – you’re not “with” the person you’re with?

Memories are a wonderful part of making a life. And, as we get older, our memories fail. Sometimes, if we’re truly unlucky, our memories dissipate altogether.

No amount of photographs or videos can ever unlock that part of our brain that’s decided we recall nothing of our life before last week when this happens.

Perhaps that’s life’s way of telling us life is short, but memories can be shorter.

Perhaps – just perhaps – that’s life’s way of telling us to focus on the experience now as opposed to trying to recall it later.

Or, perhaps [probably?] I’m talking crap.

Either way, much like the Family Day that’s just a few hours away now, I’d rather be in the physical here and now than be in the future Likes and shares of a visual update on some social network that may or may not be here in the near future.

Besides, the future can be overrated.

The present, though? That’s where the life-changing experiences are happening right now, right here.

Don’t miss them because of a six inch piece of plastic and wires – life deserves more than that.

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