Staying Present and Engaged

3 minute read

I vividly remember the day my mother brought home a Gateway desktop computer when I was in the first grade. It was all white- the tower, the monitor, the mouse, and that keyboard that you could hear a mile away when you double clicked the AOL icon. She had been given the computer by the company she worked for and she quickly dove head first into all the features it had to offer. And I was always right beside her, learning everything there was to learn about Windows 95.

As I grew up, we always had some really great technology around for me to get my hands on. By the time I was in middle school I had my own desktop computer in my room. It was beautiful. A silver Dell tower with a matching silver “flat” screen monitor (the front was flat- the back was a solid 2 feet long). But it was amazing and I had the power of a global technology at the tip of my fingertips every day after school (until 9 p.m. when AOL would kick me out because my parents were still smarter than I was about technology).

Heading into high school technology was ever increasingly present. From my brand new Samsung Blackjack II (still my favorite phone to date) to laptops and on and on – there was always technology surrounding me. It grew on me fast and I realized how to really embrace these tools to improve myself. Ultimately my time on these technologies has turned into a career as a Front-End Developer for a startup in Orlando. But there’s one significant problem to how available this technology – and this information – is to me. I’m always distracted.

I put an app on my iPhone for a few months and found, on average, I pull out my phone over 170 times per day. What?! (For comparison, the average person looks at their screen 110 times per day). For me, I know the general look is usually for the time. But according to my phone I spent over an hour a day in Messages, 20 minutes browsing the internet, 15-20 minutes on Twitter,  15 minutes on Flipboard, another 15 minutes on Facebook, and another 15 minutes on Instagram, 10 minutes on Snapchat, and a measly 5 minutes on email (I don’t like email and hardly check it anymore – but that’s for another post).

And I typically do all of this when I’m in public places. But why? Why would I choose to avoid engaging those around me just to casually browse meaningless things on my phone? I don’t know – but my guess is culture has trained me that in “awkward” moments it’s best to stop staring and pretend like there’s something important going on with some “real friend” on my phone.

So here’s my challenge to myself and to you: let’s embrace the awkward and begin engaging others around us. Today I challenge you to go be uncomfy and ask someone about their story or tell your story. We all want to be known and not ignored. 

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