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WILSON: Are we really living in the present?

• Nov 15, 2017 at 3:00 PM

Technology has invaded our lives and we need to take back control. It seems that the pace of life has gotten a bit crazy and many people point to technology as one of the major culprits. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Pinterest, emails, texting — the list could go on and on.

We are afraid of “missing out” on something going on in someone else’s life, but in reality, we are missing out on the life going on around us. How much of what we are doing on technology is for required use and how much has become an addiction?

As adults working with and raising kids, it’s our responsibility to teach them the difference between the need and convenience of having electronic devices, typically a smartphone. Learning how to communicate is an essential piece of their future success.

There are three basic types of communication: verbal, written and nonverbal. None of these require the use of an electronic device, nor does a key element to communication require technology: being a good listener. Looking people in the eyes, shaking hands, articulating words, making phone calls and sending hand-written notes are a few of the components necessary to building relationships and communicating with others.

As a society, we have become so engrossed in our cellphones that we often don’t have a general awareness of what is happening around us. We allow a text message, notification or email to take precedence over a verbal conversation we are in the middle of. Many adults are modeling poor technology behavior to our kids all of the time. It’s time to take a good look at our own cellphone etiquette and make a shift if we are letting it absorb us.

This past summer, I was blessed to travel through some beautiful parts of France, and the connection on my cellphone was spotty, at best. This forced me to be without! Without 24-7 access to social media and emails. Wow! It was absolutely rejuvenating. I truly had not realized what a stronghold they both had on me.

Because this was a forced situation and not really one I had chosen, it was a blessing in disguise. Not feeling the pressure of keeping up or having the distraction allowed me to actually be present in each and every moment while on my trip. I share this because, for me, it was the start of letting go of the grip that my personal electronic device has had on me.

I’ve taken it a step further: No more push notifications on my cellphone for emails or social media. Wowzer! Who knew how truly refreshing something so simple could be? It has allowed me to check my email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc., when I want rather than because I see on my screen the pressure to keep up. Amazing!

Imagine how much more engaging we could all be if we just focused on looking up, rather than looking at a screen in our hand. If rather than shooting of an email, sometimes at all hours of the night, we took the time to make a phone call. It’s incredible how such a small little device can take such control over grown adults who spent a large portion of their lives without it.

How about our kids? They are growing up in a world where that has become the accepted norm. We need to take a good look at our own practices and, because we know better, we must begin to do better.

Together, let’s help our kids realize the incredible tool that a smartphone can be, but let’s begin to model when, where and how to use it. Don’t let the face buried in a cellphone be yours, rather, look up, make eye contact and be present with those around you!

— Tracy LN Wilson, community columnist, is the principal at Grand Haven High School.

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