I recently went out to dinner and was seated near a large family that was together celebrating a birthday. As I scanned their table, it made me smile to see this family come together to celebrate their loved one. But one thing I noticed as I glanced down the table was how many people in the group had their phones out and were looking at them. I stopped and took in the rest of the restaurant and noticed that a lot of other people at tables were doing the same thing – looking at their phone while the rest of their party was engaged with each other. I could see some people laughing and smiling and others had blank looks on their faces that were illuminated from their phone screens. It really got me thinking about how plugged in we are to our phones and social media and how easily accessible it is. If you ever feel bored or out of place in a conversation it’s so easy to check out; simply look at your phone as a way to emotionally escape while still being physically present.
*stock image, not a real photo
As I looked back at the table I saw a women who seemed to be around my age, turn her attention to a 20-something male that was looking at his phone and sitting a few seats down from her. She said something specific to him and I saw his face light up and he put the phone down right away. He excitedly started talking and soon the people in between them were putting down their phones and joining in. Soon everyone was laughing and smiling and they all seemed to be really happy. This made me realize that to some people the best gift we can give them is our undivided attention and to be present and engaged. People want to spend time with others and interact with them, so why is it that we sometimes feel the need to constantly look at our phones when we are with loved ones?
The holidays are usually a time where family and friends who might go all year long without seeing each other, finally get together to celebrate. I know when I go back home, I love spending time with my parents and sisters, catching up, laughing, and creating new memories. While I am able to stay up to date on their lives because of modern technology, nothing can really replace the feeling of connection I get when I sit in a room with them and simply hang out and talk. I think that is why I was so interested in watching the dynamic of this family play out at dinner. I was able to see firsthand how someone deciding to unplug and be present and engaging could change a whole family dinner. It really was an eye opening experience that led me to share it with all of you and create a holiday challenge for you!
This holiday season, I challenge you all to unplug and be present while you’re with family and friends. I am not simply talking about putting away your phone, but I am also talking about being engaging with them. I want you to try and give family and friends your attention and hold a meaningful conversation with them, without once looking at your phone. By giving them your undivided attention, listening, and engaging with them you are showing them that you value, appreciate, and care about them and that makes people feel really good. So I challenge you to give the best gift you can this Christmas to your family and friends, the gift of being unplugged and present.