When I see people staring at their phones in public while their two year old tugs at their sleeve, I always wonder what the societal impact of this will be. Electronic distraction is a relatively new phenomenon, and the full force of it is yet to be realized. I figure it probably can’t be good, since I know that parents who are inattentive due to addiction or mental illness can produce some pretty angry offspring.
The NYT article Your Phone vs. Your Heart discusses the possible implications of our distraction from direct human connection. Being distracted by technology is even more damaging than you might think. According to this article, it changes who we are, and our very ability to connect with others. Here’s an excerpt, but I hope you’ll follow the link and check out the article:
Work in social genomics reveals that our personal histories of social connection or loneliness, for instance, alter how our genes are expressed within the cells of our immune system. New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression.
When you share a smile or laugh with someone face to face, a discernible synchrony emerges between you, as your gestures and biochemistries, even your respective neural firings, come to mirror each other. It’s micro-moments like these, in which a wave of good feeling rolls through two brains and bodies at once, that build your capacity to empathize as well as to improve your health.
It’s pretty much the opposite of mindfulness, isn’t it – to ignore the humans right in front of us, in favor of an electronic device? At a minimum, it certainly is invalidating to those we are ignoring. And we know this extreme distraction must have consequences, which we conveniently avoid allowing ourselves to think about. But it’s not too late. We can start choosing right now, or in any moment, to be present and connected in meaningful ways, and to put down the phone.