Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disconnecting in an age of connectivity

You know the scene: A high-level strategy session involving numerous associates, laptops out, smartphones on vibrate, white board or flip chart at the ready, and the initial Powerpoint teed up by the first presenter.

How long does it take before heads start bobbing down--before fingers begin typing, before a vibrating phones signals an incoming text, and before a meeting attendee even checks a voice mail?

This amazing age of constant connectivity is breeding with it a public whose attention spans seem to be dissolving more rapidly each day. Whether in a meeting, in the office, at home, or on the road, the desire and need to be connected is paramount.

Writer and consultant Linda Stone calls it "continuous partial attention" when describing the current meeting protocol where participants come with numerous connectivity devices. We pay attention to multiple things because we don't want to miss anything...and subsequently never give anything complete attention.

How many of you watch TV at night with laptop or tablet in lap and smartphone within arm's reach? How many can't make it through reading this blog post without diverting a look at your message icon on your phone?

A college campus, within the past week, had all students disconnect for a day. The results, not surprisingly, caused a high level of anxiety in these kids who have grown up knowing nothing but the ability to stay connected via social media, and to text instead of talk.

Is all this information a good thing? Is it mandatory that we be constantly connected? Or, is it getting in the way? In a past life, meetings could get derailed due to attendees talking amongst themselves. Talking, now, is the last thing that attendees do--they're too busily focused on the laptop or other device providing information of one type or another.

The point of this blog entry isn't to say that we should all disconnect and throw away these wonderful devices which we all use. Perhaps the issue is whether the meeting, where everyone is distracted by this connectivity, should happen at all. If a meeting isn't worth unplugging for, then it's probably not worth having. And, if a conversation at home can't happen without checking one's messages, then you may want to Google "marriage counselors" as you cruise the internet--it's counsel you'll soon be needing.

No comments:

Post a Comment