I love my phone; it’s a part of me. I can recall very few waking hours in the last few years where I was not using my phone. Is that SO bad? I don’t think so. Is my opinion app-ed to change once I become a father? Maybe. Facing our screens, let’s embrace this together.

We’ve all seen it—The classic illustration. That couple at dinner who don’t verbally talk to each other because their faces are all up in their phones. Immediately, you are… Disgusted? Horrified? Disappointed? Not me. I really like to see people connected, in multiple ways. Especially because when I glanced their way again ten minutes later, their phones were on the table—just an arm’s length away. They were laughing and sharing stories, verbally, which—to many—is still the only acceptable form of connecting in social spaces.

Are phones okay at dinner? Respond here!

So–What just happened right there? Why did they simultaneously glue their faces to their screens for a few minutes at dinner–in public? The answer is… Who knows? From long distance, I can only dial up potential scenarios.

What If the Couple Was:

1—In a group text conversation with a loved one in the hospital

2—Planning a romantic weekend together, exploring travel accommodations

3—Checking the forecast for their son’s soccer tournament

4—Reviewing updates (email remind, seesaw, feedback) from their daughter’s teachers

5—FaceTiming relatives in other time zones with baby announcement

6—Checking on their children’s locations and online activities

7—Double-checking a @Groupon order at this very restaurant before ordering

8—Reading alerts from their home security system

9—Ordering an @Uber or @Lyft, ensuring safe travels home

10—Answering urgent questions from their children’s babysitter

It’s fascinating to hear people SAY they want: “No phones (or devices) at the dinner table!” Dinnertime generates face-to-face conversations ranging from How Was Your Day… to… What Are We Doing This Weekend? So, should they go golfing or bowling on Saturday? Recent rumors rumbled around severe storms striking soon, but not exactly sure when. But now they’re stuck. Conversation dries up into a dramatic drought.

SILENCE

Compounding their constituted conundrum–they’re not allowed to check their phones for the updated weather forecast, personal google calendars, or golfing/bowling venue information. And there they sit—in their own free will—pretending like they don’t have the means to find answers to their questions in less than ten seconds, just an arms-length away. There they sit—manually rerouting well-traversed pathways in their brains, interrupting their autopilot, and taking their digital habits off of speed dial, just to: unlearn how to efficiently access and evaluate information; undo what they previously did and want to do right now; and unthink logical problem-solving strategies, using given resources available.

Maybe our faces shouldn’t be in our screens all the time. After all, some really can have ANALOGous Cups of Coffee. Some really are lucky enough to have The Real Social Space.

But we DO live in a connected, blended, hybrid world full of flashy things AND actual people. It’s not just about digital citizenship OR interpersonal skills. It’s not just about connecting thru a screen OR face-to-face. It’s BOTH. Because we live in a BOTH world. And BOTH isn’t going away.

How do you balance BOTH? I don’t know. But what I DO know, is that it’s NOT the device—It’s what we DO on our device. Our challenges are not with our tools; our challenges are with ourselves, and how we use our tools. If technology enhances conversations and is a positive learning resource, then the device is adding value. Ultimately—with or without devices—connecting is about intent, priority, presence, integrity, citizenship, relationships… It’s about how we treat each other.