Let’s Not Lose Sight of Reality

I was listening to a podcast yesterday about Augmented Reality (AR) and the role it will play in our lives in the future.  Similar to Virtual Reality (VR) AR involves wearing a set of goggles that allows you to see things that aren’t really there.  The difference between AR and VR is that while VR shows you a view of an environment that doesn’t exist, AR allows you to see your actual environment, but also shows you things or people that aren’t physically present.

For example, I could be wearing AR goggles and look down at my wrist and see a wrist watch, even though I’m not actually wearing a watch, or I could see a flat screen TV or computer screen on the wall that isn’t really present.  In addition to objects, you would also be able to see people, who were also wearing AR goggles, as if they were in the same spaces as you, even if they are miles, countries, or even continents away.  It sounded pretty amazing!

The host of the podcast went on to talk about the application of such technology and how it could transform everything from how people attend conferences, train for skills, and even attend Thanksgiving dinners with family.  In his opinion, this technology was about 3 years away.  He made that comment that when this technology becomes available, it will very shortly begin impacting all of our lives.  One comment he made was that once this technology is mainstream, we will likely feel naked if we leave the house without our AR goggles.

That last part struck me, and has haunted me to some degree since hearing it.  I think AR and VR technology will be amazing and will have significant application and promise to improve many aspects of our lives.  However, I also see how it can further isolate us from one another as humans, much like our smartphones have the capacity to do today.  If we as users of this technology are not wise enough to put healthy boundaries around its use, I can see how we could easily become a society that is more focused and interested in the things in our lives that are NOT real, while neglecting the things (and people) that are.

Let’s take a lesson from the adoption and impact the smartphone has had on cultures today.  As new technologies become mainstream, let’s be aware to set boundaries around their use; boundaries that are designed to maintain, and hopefully strengthen, the relationships we already have with those around us.   It would be a shame to think that we would rather gravitate toward a piece of technology over interacting with people that are present in our lives.  But as history has shown us, if left unchecked, that is exactly how we would lean.

Connecting With Those You’re With

I was out to dinner with a group of 6 people earlier this week.  At one point during the meal something funny was said, and one of the people at the table laughed out loud with one of those great infectious laughs that make other people that hear it begin laughing as well.  It went on for several minutes.  It was great!

Several times prior to this uproarious event there were instances when most of the people in the group were on their smart phones at the same time, either looking up someplace to eat, or just checking in on social media.   It’s always weird to me when a group of people that have made an effort to gather together spend so much time on their phones seeing what other people, that aren’t present, are up to.

After the meal I was thinking about the person’s infectious laugher and how it created a shared experience that was enjoyable and created a connection between everyone at the table.  I also thought of the times when folks were all on their cell phones.  There was no connection or shared laughter when people’s faces were buried in their phones.   The only shared experience we had at those times was that we were all occupying the same space.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think if you’re going to make an effort to get together and spend time with people in person, you shouldn’t be looking at your phone to find out what other people are doing, or what you might be missing out on.  I personally have never had an enjoyable shared experience with people who are all sitting together focused on their smart phones and disconnected from one another.

With the holidays upon us, we’ll likely have several opportunities to gather with others over a meal, for drinks, or just for the sake of spending time together.  Be mindful during these times about connecting with the people you’re present with, and consider leaving the smart phone in your pocket or purse.

And if you’d really rather not connect with the people you’re gathered with, it begs the question… what are you even doing there?

Put Yourself on Airplane Mode

One of my favorite features on my smart phone is Airplane Mode.  Yes, seriously, Airplane Mode.  You know that function which keeps your phone from connecting to networks, the internet or cell phone communication.  I love that feature!

I know that may sound rather stupid.  Why would my favorite feature on an amazing communication and information gathering device be to disable its ability to do all those amazing things?  While I’m a huge fan of smart phone technology and the benefits they provide, I also appreciate the ability to hold that technology at bay when it starts to become a hindrance to what I should be currently focusing on.

For example, I don’t need internet access, text messaging, email, or social media updates when I’m:

  • Focusing on a task or project that requires my full concentration.
  • Enjoying a non-technical event or outing.
  • Spending face-to-face time with other people.

In these instances, rarely, if ever, does the intrusion of a smart phone add to the occasion.

In addition to putting our phones on Airplane Mode, I think we can do likewise with ourselves and our environment.  We can remove distractions and external intrusions that hinder our ability to be fully engaged in the events and the people in our lives by taking simple steps like:

  • Engage in activities that are active and require participation and interaction from everyone involved.
  • Spending time with people in a non-technical environment, like the outdoors or a space without computers, televisions and other devices that vie for your attention.
  • Declare the next outing or event with friends or family an “Airplane Mode event” where all participants place their phones on Airplane Mode, during the event.

Sure, these ideas may seem awkward at first, but taking steps to better connect with those close to you is always worth pursuing.  Who knows, you might be amazed at how much actually learn about others.