Thoughts from She’s Geeky: Being “Present” Despite Technology

One of the great sessions I attended at She’s Geeky unConference was one on “Being Present” in what you are doing, even though smart phones, email and other technologies clamor for our attention multiple times a day.
I admit that my BlackBerry is never far from my side.  Work emails, personal emails, Twitter and even Facebook raise alerts on my phone on a pretty regular basis.  It’s often hard to ignore them, especially when I’m known for responding quickly.  Not only do I feel like I’m staying current with what’s going on in my life and helping those that need my attention, random alerts from the device are equivalent to the intermittent reward system that makes slot machines so popular and addictive.  
It’s true – each little beep and ding give us a shot of chemicals in the brain that keep us wanting more and clearly many of us keep going back for it.  It’s now the “norm” for smart phones to take their place on the restaurant table next to the salt and pepper shakers.
I know what did it for me – unlimited texting. Texting quickly became my preferred mode of communicating.  Quick and to the point when I needed that, but also a way to have long random conversations with friends over the course of the day.  I perceived it as a way to be LESS intrusive than a phone call.  The receiver of the message could respond when they had the time.  But really, it became the best way for me to NOT have to be fully engaged with the person I was communication with.  I could text at my leisure – meanwhile researching a project, organizing my desk, or completing other tasks that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was on a phone call.
Soon that “polite” nudge of text message became a driving force to steal my attention and I’ve let it. And it just opened the door for emails and tweets and other alerts.  I’m a slave to my smart phone.  You probably are too.  Don’t deny it.
So how do we break the chain?  Screen-free days where we put down the phones and iPads and walk away from the computer?  I don’t know if I can do that for 24 hours, honestly.  How about dialing down the notifications on your phone?  Or declaring a room or area of your home “phone free”? 
I’m going to try a few things: I’m starting out by turning off the sounds for Facebook alerts and all emails.  I will also put it on vibrate or silent when I go to bed at night.  And maybe when I’m home I’ll find one central place to put it, instead of moving it around as I move around.  And of course, I need to be more aware of when I’m denying someone who’s in front of me my full attention – the phone needs to stay off the dinner table at my house.
Do you have other suggestions for staying “present” while your devices beckon?  Leave a comment.
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