I love the angst of commentators who deal with YOUTH in the digital age. They always seem to find the most negative things to say about contemporary culture and in particular anything to do with young people and their digital habits. Take as an example, David Carr of the New York Times. In a recent article Paying for Times at SXSW Carr talks about the multi-tasking and often disturbing young person who glances at their iPhone or Blackberry while engaging in conversations with others. I had a visit once from an individual who glanced at his Blackberry for the entire duration of our one hour meeting. Sure, this is disturbing but not because of the technology. Anyone who cannot maintain their connection with an interlocutor (daydreaming incessantly while I say important things!!), is saying as much about themselves as they are about the person they are not listening to.
Conversations are by their very nature rather elliptical and fluid. This is after all why so much of what we say to each other goes off in many different directions, our words and sentences are often misinterpreted and more often than not we misunderstand each other. Distractions are at the core of the communications process. No one is ever fully attuned to an other and part of the challenge is to wend our way through this repetitive conundrum with some dignity and self-awareness. We need to stop blaming technology for modifying or creating habits that already exist! Perhaps then, we will actually take fuller control of our conversations and try and understand the inherent distortions as wonderful opportunities for further exploration and not as dead ends. Conversations, discussions and presentations gain their strength from our struggle to make ourselves understood which is why from time to time we are actually a little less distracted than usual!