Presence and Technology

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Presence, to me, is being fully in this moment of now. In addition to being able to fully enjoy each moment, presence also heightens our creativity because all creativity happens in the moment of now.

There is a famous storyline from comedian Jerry Seinfeld where he says it’s his observation that wherever we are we want to be somewhere else. He speaks of how when we’re home we want to go out, and when we’re out we feel like we need to be getting back home. Of course, he is exaggerating for laughs, but it’s funny because of the bit of truth in it.

Technology is essentially neutral in its impact on presence. It is our relationship to technology, how we interact with it, that determines whether it will facilitate more presence or whether it takes away from our experience of presence.

I observed at a recent Olympics opening ceremony where, as the representatives from each country were entering the arena, many were videoing or snapping photos of themselves, the audience, and the setting while also participating in the event. It was rather surreal to me. Were they fully present to the experience of this momentous occasion and their participation in it, or were they more focused on trying to post it to social media? The answer would be different for each person.

I personally love social media and am quite active in this modality. I do reflect on whether we have fully learned how to get the most effective use of such media. In the simplest terms, I would say, if it takes our attention away from the present moment it is not optimally effective and if it brings us into greater presence we have mastered its use.

Here are a few of my insights and practices regarding presence and technology:

  • If I’m out to dinner with friends, unless I’m expecting an urgent communication about an important matter, I put my smartphone aside and don’t respond to it. An exception to this would be using Facetime or Skype to include others in the present moment.
  • If I’m taking a walk, I similarly put the technology aside, including texting and even my music player. There’s a lot going on right here in front of me in this present moment. I want to take it all in, including what’s happening within me – my breath, the beat of my heart, and how I’m feeling as I experience this moment.
  • With balance, using a web search engine during a conversation can add life and new information to a conversation, creating greater vibrancy in this now moment. Compulsive searching can take us away from the person right in front of us.
  • Social media, in general, have the power to connect us to more people in more places than ever before. This has been of much benefit to our planet, allowing us to experience our oneness with people across the world in unprecedented ways. This media also has the possibility of disconnecting us from the very people in our immediate proximity if not used in balance.

I don’t see the above as a fixed and rigid set of rules. In fact, as I read over my own list I realize that there are times when I don’t align with some of the items. However, as intentions and insights they allow me to have a conscious, healthy relationship with technology, making choices that create the greatest opportunity for presence in the moment of now.

It is not technology itself that keeps us from being present. Rather, it is our relationship with technology. The invitation this day is to explore your relationship with technology. If you’re a technophobe, perhaps softening your stance on technology could open a greater world for you. If you are highly attached to technology, maybe there is a healthier and more balanced way for you to be with technology.

Enjoy the journey.

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