Yesterday morning, as I was doing my weekly coffeehouse visit, I sat next to a woman who was writing a letter. She sat peacefully drinking her cappuccino, with a box of beautiful stationery next to her, handwriting a message in neat penmanship. Every now and then she'd stop writing, sip her coffee and stare outside for a second, before returning to her words. It was lovely to watch, and I couldn't help but think that it had been years since I'd actually seen anyone actually sit down and write a letter -- holiday cards, yes, but an actual letter? It had been a long time.
No one ever slows down enough to do things like this anymore, I thought ruefully. Technology is hampering our ability to connect meaningfully.
But then I remembered a moment this past weekend, when I was at my parents' house. My sister and her family are in town, and at some point, she and her husband introduced us to Words With Friends (which, for anyone who is as anti-app as I am and isn't up on the latest technology fads, Words with Friends turns out to be, in effect, Scrabble for mobile devices). I'm a little suspicious that perhaps the app somehow injects crack cocaine through your fingertips, because good Lord, what an addictive game this is. In no time at all, we were all playing each other on our devices, and at one moment, all was silent as we each contemplated words for our next move.
I took a photograph of that moment, and thought to myself, huh, so this is what 21st century family Scrabble night looks like. And I had to admit, it was actually lovely that we were interacting like this. From the outside, I'm sure it would have looked like we were all ignoring each other, but in fact, the opposite was true: technology was actually connecting us.
So which is it, then: is technology causing us to speed up and forego living in the moment? Or is it the opposite?
I'm beginning to suspect that technology might be a scapegoat for all that is ill with the world: after all, the woman sitting next to me at the coffeehouse could have just as easily taken her time crafting a beautiful email to her friend, and my family could've pulled out the dusty Scrabble board and played together, all with the same effect. Maybe the point isn't that we should forego the ubiquitous smart phones and tablets, but that we make time to use them with intention, being mindful of using them more often as tools of connection, and less frequently as tools of escaping.
(Although, honestly? Ain't nothin' wrong with a little escapism, either.)
If you'd like to learn more about how to make the art of intention (perhaps with a little escapism) a part of your life, consider joining me for the LimeLight Sessions in Houston this fall. It'll be a weekend of introspection, creativity and dreaming, all in a funky setting with good foods and good friends. Registration is now open, but slots are going really fast -- I'd love to have you, so register early!