Each year I visit a lot of motorway service stations. Last year I drove just over 40,000 miles. Sitting in the café on one such visit I watched at perfectly average family arrive at a table with their food. Mum and Dad with two youngish children, I guess of 4 or 5.
They sat down and began to eat. First, the Father pulled out his mobile phone and head down, began scrolling. Then the mother did the same. No conversation, no chatting, no engagement. Not with each other or with their two children.
It made me feel so sad to watch this scene play out. The two children sat picking at their food. Looking at their parents, then around the café, and then back at their food. I left after 20 minutes, and throughout that time the family barely exchanged a word with each other.
How have we reached this point? It’s tragic. I worry about our children growing up in this kind of environment. I worry about our relationships with each other when this is the norm.
True communication can only happen with full attention. It’s not a conversation if one or both parties are looking at their phones. Where do their attention and interest lie? They may say it’s with you, but is it?
This level of distraction leads us to feel isolated and alone. Even when we are with others, and should be feeling connected, they are distracted by their phones.
We have to stop this behaviour. It’s damaging our children, and it’s damaging us. We have a mental health crisis amongst our teenagers, and I guess that we are heading the same way in the adult population.
I point the finger categorically at our addiction to mobile phones and social media. Social media and our phones with their pings and notifications are designed specifically to be addictive.
There are no easy answers or solutions. I’m starting the process by drawing attention to our behaviour. The change will only come if we are aware and acknowledge that there is a problem.
I leave you with a simple suggestion. Next time you are with your family or someone you care about. Put your phones away, not just down next to you and use the time to talk and listen to each other. Show them you care by putting your phone away.