No, I’m not going to put my phone down.


I’m gonna ramble for a bit, but I’ll eventually make my point.

I don’t have any “Facebook” friends. I just have friends. Pretty much all of them are online. Or to say it another way; if we are friends on Facebook, it’s because I decided that I genuinely like you. We are friends.

I can count on one hand the people I truly care about that I’m not connected to through social networks. My dad. My grandmother… I’m finished counting. Everyone else is online, and online is mostly how I stay in touch with them.

Last month, a few of my friends all happened to make it to Chicago in the same week. Online is great, but face to face is even better. In the span of just a few days, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Bill Lublin, drinks with Heather Elias and dinner with Kelley Koehler. One great thing about reconnecting face to face with each of them was how quickly we slipped right into casual conversations. There was very little catching up to do because that part of our friendships is largely maintained online. In fact, much of the conversation Bill and I had was sparked by a comment I had made on Facebook the night before. I met Kelley, Heather and Bill online before I met them in person. Actually, I have a couple dozen close friends that began as online connections. My wife and I also connected online, just before we met in person.

During the same week my friends were in town, my wife and I went to the theatre for a musical. While we were getting settled in our seats, Pamela was texting back and forth with a friend. Usually this would be somewhat annoying on a date night, but she was texting with someone who had just moved across the country. It was a big deal for my wife and a bigger deal for her friend. Yeah, it was date night, but was it really such a big deal that she was on her phone for a few minutes? Nope.

Life’s too short.

Back in January, my uncle Jerry passed away. He was a significant role model in my life. When I was a kid, he ran a family business that we all were a part of. Some measure of my business and leadership acumen can be attributed to him and I’m so thankful he was a part of my life.

I have a nephew who was born just over a year ago. As he lives in Colorado, and I live in Chicago, I’ve only seen him in person a few times. One of those times was at my uncle’s recent funeral. Perhaps the hardest part of living away from home is that absence of face time with family. This is especially true concerning my new nephew. For me to be any kind of role model to him… 800 miles away, I will have to figure out how to do it online.

I said all that to say this…

From time to time, I go to a dinner party where someone has the bright idea to stack phones. I’m that guy who won’t play along. I just think you shouldn’t expect the undivided attention of the people sitting across from you, just because they are across from you. Sometimes, the person on the other side of that phone really is more important. At least for a few minutes. Stop being so selfish.

and to say this…

A Friend of mine published this video the other day.

It’s a witty use of the spoken word and the guy has an English accent to boot. What’s not to like? I can see why people want to rally around it. I also think he’s waxing poetic about how we all interacted with each other before we had smartphones… but look, I get it. Stop and smell the roses. Don’t spend all your time on your phone. It’s a balance. Blah, blah, blah…

Maybe the relationships that guy built online are largely very shallow. Mine are not. All of my closest friends and all of my family live in different time zones. I don’t waste time on “Facebook” friends because I’m too busy using Facebook to stay connected to people I actually care about.

I don’t spend *all* my time on my phone, but please understand this. If you do see me on my phone, I’m probably texting with my wife, or reading a Facebook post about my nephew, or interacting with a good friend or family member… and to be honest, if you really feel like have to ask, then yes, they probably are more important to me then you are.

So, no… I’m not going to put my phone down.

Author: @tcar

I will fill out my bio as soon as I have time.

16 thoughts on “No, I’m not going to put my phone down.”

  1. As always, I enjoyed reading what you wrote. And as usual, I agree with your position and find it mirrors my own online interaction- I enjoyed recalling lunch and how much fun that was, I was jealous I missed Kelly (though I had drinks with Heather that night after we had lunch) and then I watched the video (because it was there and I wanted to have the total experience of Getting Less Done) when it occurred to me that the guy who wrote and performed the poem “look up” and then posted it to YouTube is either into irony in a BIG way or is a huge hypocrite….

  2. Good read Todd. Yeah, I don’t think people who are not digitally connected get it. If you are on your phone, you could be doing anything – work included. It’s an extension of who we are right now, for good or for bad. It’s what it is. I do my best to disconnect from time to time but it’s hard. I have a constant need for information and that need is filled by that little computer that sits in my pocket most of the time.

    1. Patrick, there was a time when everyone on the train was reading a newspaper to satisfy the same curiosity about the world that you have. It’s just a different medium.

  3. This is a really good piece @tcar and well timed. I’m getting a little tired of being guilted by others into thinking I’m rude or don’t care about the people in front of me in preference to whatever conversations (or matters of importance) are going on via my devices. I’ll decide what’s the most important thing to me, or most in need of my attention, not some narcissistic guilt tripper, or a trendy hashtag. Anyone who doesn’t accept that of me and my values holds a rapidly diminishing place on my friends list.

  4. Fantastic post @tcar, thank you for expressing something I feel too, so cleanly. Having been an online pioneer myself, I constantly marvel at how it’s just part of mass adoption to attack the “new channel/tech” without thinking about it. As you point out, the method of communication has little to say about what I, you, or anyone brings to it. I can be real, serious, and caring online, phone or f2f, the channel is immaterial. I think, though, that most people treat the new as frivolous at first because their comfort level isn’t high enough to interact as deeply as they might with a technology that’s more mature and familiar—but this has nothing to do with the tech. I say this from a lot of experience. I mentor people of all ages on how to interact deeply and unusually online, so it’s a real think that some people, many people who aren’t native, have to learn. What’s interesting to me is that they have to learn for the first time because “social stuff” is unconscious for most people.

  5. Todd, excellent thoughts! As a parent of three grown kids (32,31,28) who have all been raised with cell phones…I can say that my relationships with them is deeper and more meaningful because we text each other. (Just typing that sounds so silly.) When I was a young adult, I would go for long periods without communicating with my parents. We just were not easily accessible to each other. My kids have always been just a text away. It sounds silly, but I have learned a lot about my kids and been able to support them in an instant…when they needed it…because of our ability to text each other. (And don’t get me wrong, they have also trained me to buzz off when they desired space or were not interested in my words…ha!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. I agree, Todd, great work on deeper thinking and a well-written article. There is a time and a place for everything. It’s your choice. No one else is walking in your shoes to know or understand what is urgent to you, has a priority, and will absorb just a few moments of being in the moment. You are in present company because you choose to be and that is also a priority. Perhaps, in the interest of being polite and excusing oneself briefly for a necessary alternative engagement when in the presence of others, set the stage via social grace…kindly and quietly, in advance, if possible, excuse your presence for the expected interruption, or moment to attend to another priority. It’s no different than excusing yourself to head to the restroom or to have a word with the maitre d, bartender, or parking attendant. This would be not only gracious, but perfectly acceptable, and there’s no need to disengage totally from outside communications in putting your phone down or tucked away.

  7. I have my phone with me and on 24 hours a day. I don’t have many friends but I have a perfect family and I would do anything for any of them most any time and yes they can reach me even at dinner.

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