Put down that phone for clear hu­man con­nec­tion

Business Daily (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BOB COLLYMORE Chief Ex­ec­u­tive O icer Sa­fari­com

What’s the first thing you did when you woke up this morn­ing? I bet you picked your smart­phone and spent the first few min­utes of your day catch­ing up on the news, on so­cial me­dia, or emails. You didn’t med­i­tate, re­flect, or have a con­ver­sa­tion with the per­son ly­ing next to you.

Wel­come to the Age of Dis­trac­tion, where many of the five bil­lion peo­ple on earth with ac­cess to a mo­bile phone live.

Mo­bile de­vices have been ac­cused of cre­at­ing as many prob­lems as they’ve solved. In the last few years, nu­mer­ous stud­ies have sought to link these gad­gets to shorter at­ten­tion spans and even re­duced mem­ory ca­pac­ity. After all, why re­mem­ber any­thing when you can Google it, or use an app?

To be fair how­ever, dis­trac­tion did not be­gin with the mo­bile phone or the in­ter­net.

Since the be­gin­ning of time, hu­man be­ings have found ways to dis­tract them­selves from the hum­drum of ev­ery­day life. As tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced, so has the num­ber of ways in which we are dis­tracted. From news­pa­pers to TV to so­cial me­dia, hu­man be­ings crave dis­trac­tion for var­i­ous rea­sons. It could be to pass time, to find an es­cape or to avoid hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions.

So dis­trac­tion is not new, it’s just gone dig­i­tal now.

Think about it: When was the last time you re­ally had a con­ver­sa­tion with some­body, with­out look­ing at your phone? When did you last switch off vol­un­tar­ily, and not be­cause your phone ‘died’?

It’s ironic that the mo­bile phone, the de­vice that keeps us con­nected to the world around us, is also dis­con­nect­ing us from the peo­ple clos­est to us. We claim to be more con­nected than ever, but we barely speak to each other any­more. Our de­vices are re­plac­ing real hu­man con­nec­tion, and it’s time to re­claim what we’ve lost: con­ver­sa­tion.

In her book, Re­claim­ing Con­ver­sa­tion – The Power of Talk in a Dig­i­tal Age, Sherry Turkle says: “Many of the things we all strug­gle with in love and work can be helped by con­ver­sa­tion. With­out con­ver­sa­tion, stud­ies show that we are less em­pathic, less con­nected, less cre­ative and ful­filled.”

Tech­nol­ogy, for all its amaz­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, can never re­place in­depth, face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions. What is said via text mes­sage or email al­most never car­ries the same weight, or mean­ing, as that which is said in per­son. There­fore tech­nol­ogy can­not – and should not – be a sub­sti­tute for real con­ver­sa­tion.

In 2017 Voda­fone In­dia ran a so­cial ex­per­i­ment en­gi­neered to get more peo­ple to talk to each other with­out the dis­trac­tion of mo­bile phones. The #Lookup cam­paign en­cour­aged peo­ple to put down their phones and talk to those around them, and sparked con­ver­sa­tions about the re­al­ity of screen ad­dic­tion – an in­ter­est­ing choice for a telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany.

The cam­paign made me re­flect about my own screen time. So about two years ago, my wife and I de­cided to look ups. We set aside some time each evening dur­ing which we would put our phones aside, and just talk.

Later, when I was in hos­pi­tal re­ceiv­ing can­cer treat­ment, I learned to em­brace soli­tude. I spent time re­flect­ing on life and the mean-

Tech­nol­ogy, for all its amaz­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, can never re­place in-depth, face-to-face con­ver­sa­tions” AU­THOR |

ing of hu­man con­nec­tion, rather than scrolling through my phone. Dur­ing this time, I re­alised how much of our lives are spent look­ing for dis­trac­tions, avoid­ing con­ver­sa­tions and deep thought.

Mo­bile de­vices have be­come the walls that pre­vent us from en­gag­ing those around us. They dis­tract us from com­mu­ni­cat­ing, from real em­pa­thy, from deal­ing with what needs to be dealt with. We’ve be­come afraid of re­ally talk­ing to each other, of be­ing alone with our thoughts, afraid of let­ting our minds wan­der.

In so do­ing, we have be­come ad­dicted to the kind of easy stim­u­la­tion we re­ceive from our de­vices. We are over­stim­u­lated, sat­u­rated with in­for­ma­tion we could do with­out, and afraid to step away from our de­vices.

So this year, in the spirit of do­ing more to be fully present, I’m chal­leng­ing my­self to put down the de­vices and look up. I want to dis­con­nect, to think deeply, to lis­ten more and look within, with­out the dis­trac­tions of tech­nol­ogy or me­dia. I have a feel­ing it’ll be good for me, good for those around me, and ul­ti­mately, good for busi­ness.

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