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Jessica Stam

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The Lazy Susan Cell Phone Experiment

Posted: 06/23/2011 11:07 am

In today's world of new media, there is never a shortage of information. In fact, at times I feel that many people, including myself, are overwhelmed with amount and frequency of information that comes pouring into our lives on a daily basis.

The combination of information accessibility and our desire to take in as much as we can has certainly given way to brilliant innovation, scientific breakthrough, and a hyper-connected world. But too much of one thing means less of another, right?

So my question is, are we missing out on genuine, unobstructed thought and human connection by always being plugged into our devices? How would one even begin to measure that trade-off? What would your variables be?

I do like the reading about the examples of social media that are bringing strangers together over the dinner table. For efforts like these, social media has the potential to enhance human connection by bringing people together who would otherwise never have shared a meal, a story or a laugh together.

In a quote from Lao Tzu that I read in another publication I receive, this quote resonated with me as it speaks to the very principles I strive to govern my life by because it also addresses this very tradeoff I just alluded to.

"In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be present"

"Being present" at the dinner table is a crucial moment in everyday life as most of us are staring into a screen, or a mobile phone or a camera for most of our awake hours. Next time you are in a meeting, or sitting down to dinner -- politely request that everyone turn off their phones and put them in the middle of the table in a big bowl.

I think you will be surprised at the level of engagement and satisfaction that will ensue. It won't be easy and some people will belittle this method -- but don't listen -- attribute that to their deeper awareness that they are afraid of unobstructed conversation.

It's easy to look and sound important when you have an information stream in the palm of your hand or at your ear -- but the people who continue to impress me are the ones who can justify their intelligence through genuine storytelling and though provoking conversation.

Photo by Astrid Stawiarz, Getty