It was a beautiful Labor Day weekend and I decided to take my children fishing. As I stood with them at the water’s edge, I tried to let go of all of my responsibilities, work and social media connections. I proudly watched my children as they were trolling for sunfish and feeding the geese. It was truly a beautiful moment in time.
Then it happened!!
I heard the chirp. That high-pitched tweeting sound that pulled me right back into the world of social media. For a moment, I felt angry. It was that stupid app, which was now robbing me of the opportunity to enjoy life, family and nature. No longer could I appreciate the sites of the children, birds and the water. I suddenly found myself traveling down a technology black hole, as I was eager to check my phone. I tried to resist the urge to take out my phone and look to see who was tweeting. However, before I knew it, I heard the tweeting sound again and could not resist.
As feelings of guilt took hold of me, I reached into my pocket and looked at my phone. Surprisingly, the screen was blank. I checked again, only to realize that there were no tweets, messages or alerts. I was baffled.
We’ve all experienced phantom vibrations from our phones, where we can practically feel the phone vibrating and we often jump up to answer it, only to realize that it’s actually plugged into the wall in a different room!
But who has ever heard of phantom tweet sounds?
Was I losing my mind!? Was I so addicted to technology that my brain was imagining it? Then I heard it again and I looked up.
I saw a magnificent nest in a tree just a few feet away from me. It was filled with the most beautiful family of birds, all chirping and whistling away. It was at that moment that I realized how terribly skewed my reality had become. Instead of hearing a chirp and thinking of the obvious, my mind was in a far-off place. I had become disconnected from the present moment and part of my mind was living in an alter digital reality.
In the medical profession, there is a diagnostic concept, framed by Dr. Theodore Woodward, known as “The Zebra.” In other words, if you hear hoof-beats, think horse, not zebra. Thus, when a patient presents with obvious symptoms, consider the obvious diagnosis, rather than the exotic. Yet, in today’s world of technology overload, the distracting zebra has now replaced the ordinary horse. It is both funny and quite sad that, when I hear chirping today, I think Twitter and not birds.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for technology! I even yearn to one day call myself by the esteemed title of Geek. However, this particular incident was a wake-up call. It reminded me of just how aware I must be to separate between my digital world and my actual reality which is filled with countless amazing moments with my wife and children.
How often are couples, coworkers or parents guilty of being drawn into their devices at the expense of enjoying and interacting with one another? Psychological research has demonstrated that even when a phone is nearby, a portion of our minds is distracted by their presence. Consequently, our cognitive abilities become compromised. The research shows that the closer the phone is to us, the greater the cognitive impairment. The only solution is to give oneself the gift of powering down from time to time and recalibrating.
By disconnecting our devices, even just for dinnertime, or while on a date, it frees up more cognitive ability to allow us to enjoy each moment and really make our life experiences into more meaningful ones.
Hopefully, the next time you hear the sound of a birds chirping, think life, nature and real birds—not @Twitter.