When my husband and I sneak out for a date night we usually end up a Moxie’s.   I love the lounge there, it’s decorated with beautiful chandeliers and the atmosphere is just right, cozy booths decorated in my favourite red and tables that can fit many.   There’s house music playing in the background, other couples enjoying good conversation and each other’s company. When we go during the colder months, we stay in the lounge. In the summer we’re out on the patio.  I always order a glass of Apothic Red and he always gets the beer that’s on special that night. Of course after we must order the dessert trio, served with a rich toffee cake, a sliver of delectable cheesecake and Moxie’s infamous white chocolate brownie.  

Our standing rule during date night is no phones.  We are there to enjoy each other’s company, to reconnect, to get away from the routine of our everyday lives.  I hate to admit it, but when he leaves the table I do pull the phone out just to do a quick check. Some time back, we were there on a date night and I noticed the couple beside us.  I watched them for the entire time, because I found their interaction with each other puzzling. First of all they weren’t interacting. They were seated in a cozy booth, both well dressed and on their Blackberry’s for the entire time.  Each ordered a glass of wine; in fact I don’t think they even looked up when their server placed the glasses on the table. I thought to myself, this is what technology has done to our society. Unless we make a concerted effort, it gets in the way of the human connection we all need and desire.

How on earth did we live prior to the invention of text messaging and Smartphones?  Don’t get me wrong here, there are a multitude of advantages to this technology but the greatest disadvantage is the loss of actual human connection when we are face to face with another.  Here are some of the changes that I have noticed:

When conversing over text message the art of conversation is lost and dumbed down to acronyms and emoticons.  Tonality and empathy is minimized. It’s okay to type in Caps Lock to show that you are angry or trying to make a point and you say things that you would never say if you were interacting with someone face to face.  Then when it’s time to actually have an in person conversation, the simple skills are lacking and miscommunication and misinterpretation occur. My mother worked in retail and recounts stories all the time of customers who just didn’t know how to communicate, and this has increased since the introduction of the Smartphone.  She said that many of the customers didn’t even look at her at the cash register because they are so busy texting or whatever on the phone. By doing this you minimize the other person. I’ve seen this myself at the grocery store. People are so engrossed in their virtual world that the world around them is missed.

Many people in group environments are constantly on their phone, having multiple conversations with people on social media, yet no one is really talking to each other.  My family is definitely guilty of this. We can be together in the family room “watching” the baseball or hockey game together, but each of us has our phone out and doing other things.    I guess it’s great that I can still have my 15 and 17 year old in the same room as us, but are we really spending time together and connecting? We actually connect more when we are out of the house, because they don’t have data on their phones (small hint for parents-if you want to talk to your kids, don’t give them data and then take them out where there isn’t any WIFI).

Recently I was in Rome, and I noticed that there were very few people on their phones.  During dinners or gelato or anywhere, people were actually enjoying each other’s company, they were laughing, drinking and most importantly talking.  It was so refreshing to see. My husband also noticed it. I wonder if this addiction to our phones is just a North American affliction.

Dale Carnegie said it well, in his book:  How to Win Friends and Influence People, I’m paraphrasing here, people just want to be heard, they want to feel important, and the best way to do that, is through your words and your actions.

This means you must take the time and invest in people by showing genuine interest in them.  Look up from the phone, make eye contact, smile and say hello. Engage in conversation that is not based on your needs but the needs of the other person.  Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves. I cannot tell you how much I have learned from other people’s lives simply by listening.  Everyone is interesting, if you give them a chance to speak. If you take anything away from today’s article, I would hope that it’s this: we are social animals and require human interaction.   Texting and social media cannot replace good ole conversations. I implore you to PUT THE PHONE DOWN and have a face to face conversation, you won’t regret it!

It is my honour to serve you!  God Bless!

Nina Ganguli