My wife and I went to a play last weekend. At intermission I was leaning over the balcony looking at the crowd below. Like lights on a Christmas tree cell phones lit up the room. Couples in tandem checking the latest updates on social media. Others, like myself, feel the temptation when left alone to fill the void with checking in on tomorrow’s weather, the predictions for the next game of the NBA championships or any number of media outlets. It’s part of the reality of a connected world. With digital connectability in our pockets the opportunity to fill the void is constant.
Think about it. What do you do when you’re out to a restaurant and you’re left at the table while your dinner date gets up to go to the restroom? What do you do on an elevator ride? How about waiting for an appointment?
So, during intermission at the play, I kept my phone in my pocket and walked around the theater. I watched couples interact, imagined the architect’s thoughts behind the design of the structure, read over the playbill and wondered about the life of the performers off stage. I let myself wander, mind and body, for just a brief intermission, and observed things I would not have noticed otherwise. I wonder, what else am I missing by filling quiet space with media noise?
I’m not necessarily advocating reverting back to the old Motorola flip phone (though I do miss mine on occasion), but I am encouraging that we consider waiting in the tension of voids that show up in our day.
I’m working to pay more attention to how I fill my voids. I’ve cut the apps on my phone down to a bare minimum (weather app, stock tracker, Southwest Airlines and a fitness tracker). By paring down my access I’m forced into free space. There’s only so many times I can check the weather forecast before I realize I’m just wasting time. This elimination of distractions has been intentional for me. I know it’s not for everyone, but it creates space in my day where I’m forced to look up, observe and/or engage and face the quiet I so greatly need.
Think about it next time you’re waiting for a friend to meet you for lunch, or standing in line at the airport. Just ask, why are you on your phone?