Full disclaimer to this post – I read the articles mentioned and took the attached picture using my cell phone. You will see why I pointed this out as you read.
ISTE 2016 was an amazing experience, from the learning and connections, to the food and culture of Denver itself. There are so many great moments that stand out for me, but one in particular has been on my mind for the past few days. This revelation took place at Red Rocks, the historic concert venue carved into the Colorado mountains. My fellow travelers and I decided that we would add to our ISTE adventure by taking in a concert at this site. Lucky for us that Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals were in town and played one of the most amazing concert sets that I have ever seen live. The music, venue and the ominous skies with lightning flashing in the distance all came together to create a truly special evening. But it was something that Rachel King, one of my teachers, noticed that really hit home for me. She pointed out during the concert that fewer than 10 people at a time had their cellphones out. We really couldn’t believe it as we have all been to shows where almost the entire crowd was taking video and pictures throughout. What a shame that we would be shocked by this. But there we were taking in this amazing music set, surrounded by beautiful nature, and encircled by a crowd that was simply interested in enjoying the moment as it happened, not worried about recording it to be viewed at a later date. Nor was this crowd concerned with answering texts or checking their social media pages.
A few days later as we were waiting at the Denver airport for our flight home, I read a post that was sent to me that aligned even more with this thought. The post contained photos from a series entitled “Removed”, by photographer Eric Pickersgill. Pickersgill’s photos show real life with cell phones taken out of the pictures. He is attempting to highlight our dangerous addiction to our phones and to being constantly connected. You can see more of his photos and the philosophy behind them at his site – Removed.
This gets me to wondering about this insatiable need that we have developed where we need to know right now. We need to have answers immediately. We need to answer that text right away. We need to scroll through our social media feeds on such a regular basis that we often miss out on the connections and conversations of those that are present with us. My fear is that as we become more connected to each other online, we are further pushing ourselves away from each other in person. A recent post by CNN states that Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing. Scary stuff indeed. I just watched a TED Talk by Pico Iyer entitled, The art of stillness. Pico has been a traveler for most of his life and has been to some amazing places. But he states in his Talk that he can gain more from just sitting still because doing so allows him to appreciate where he has been and gets him to wrap his head around the impact that his visits have on his life.
My biggest takeaways from ISTE were the connections that I made in person with the educators I had already met via Twitter. So I believe that we can utilize social media and screen time in a positive way, especially if we use it to enhance our lives and build additional relationships. However, we need to move away from this sense of urgency with immediately connecting. We have to remind ourselves that the answers don’t have to be learned right away. I believe that we can. We live in an amazing time – the world is right there at our fingertips. Take advantage of that. Connect with those who you might not have met if it were not for social media. But then put your phone down. Take time to be in the moment. Be present to those in the same space as you. And most important of all, please remember that you don’t need to know right now.