Want to Really Connect? Put Down the Phone, Close the Computer, Talk to People

by Frank Roche on March 28, 2011

in Technology

My wife, Sheryl, and I were at dinner on Saturday night at a fabulous Chinese restaurant nearby. Sheryl had the Peking duck. I had the kung pao chicken. We shared a big bowl of the house wonton soup. And we talked.

The people at the next table didn’t say a word. The guy had his smart phone out and typed on it for the entire dinner.

I wanted to knock it out of his hand.

I never want to be that guy who can’t hold a conversation for an hour. I remember a long time ago when our kids were small, we used to go to a particular breakfast restaurant every Sunday morning. The same patrons would be there. And there was always this same couple who brought the Sunday paper and then sat in the booth, not saying a word, reading. I told Sheryl at that time, “Hit me if I ever go to a restaurant and read a paper in your face.”

She hasn’t had to.

In her article When Twittering Gets in the Way of Real Life, writer Katherine Rosman talks about her connectivity and how it intrudes on her family time:

One evening this week, my husband and I had a discussion that mirrors others we’ve had over the past few years. “Sometimes, it’s like you’re here and you’re not here,” Joe said to me. “Your mind and soul are in cyberspace, and all we’re left with is the husk.”

I like technology as much as the next guy. I’ve had my Twitter account for over 5 years. In the next day or so I’ll have reached my 10,000th tweet. That might be enough. (Twitter is dying, in case you didn’t know.) Here’s what I know after doing employee communication work for a long, long time: There’s no substitute for talking to people. All the rest is a way to get people talking.

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