NEXT LEVEL SHIFT – ADJUSTING WITH 21ST CENTURY PARADIGMS: PLUG INTO REAL LIFE
“We’re a sleepy nation right now. I want us to be a nation of innovation.”
–Neil deGrasse Tyson
You’re at your 25 year-old niece’s birthday celebration, on the second floor of a beautiful, historic Brooklyn, New York brownstone. An educated, professional and charismatic young woman, her party is extremely well-attended. Four spacious rooms full of single, intelligent, attractive young men and women, and yet – at one particular moment – you walk through a room where every single occupant is on their smartphone. At least twenty individuals, seemingly oblivious of one another; completely tuned out of their presently shared existence; beamed to their own, individual virtual realities. You pause to consider the irony of the moment and decide you’re witness to a glitch in the matrix. You need photographic evidence… but don’t have your smartphone.
You’re talking to any one of your most tech-savvy associates and – as they do anytime you’re engrossed in conversation for more than 45 seconds – they abruptly avert their attention from the sentence you haven’t even completed yet, to respond to a text message or social media alert. They don’t say, “Excuse me just one moment, this is important,” or even, “Hold that thought just a second, I have to get this.” They just start responding to a text; or commenting on someone’s post. While you’re still talking. You stop talking because you no longer have their attention. They don’t even seem to notice that you’ve just stopped speaking, mid-sentence.
Okay, if either of the above two scenarios rings true to your own experience with avid social media users, then you must have taken the red pill (If not, it’s likely you haven’t even reached this paragraph; you stopped reading about two sentences in, to respond to a text). It is largely because of my career in an industry that relies heavily on the use of computer technology in general – and on social media in particular – that I’ve become hyper-conscious of the amount of time 21st century professionals spend trapped between two alternate realities: Physical Reality; and Virtual Reality. While we can’t afford to dismiss how significantly the application of web-based technology impacts modern-day business endeavors, across industries, the question now becomes: Are we evolving into a society that sacrifices the inherent potential of physical life interaction, for our near irresistible fascination with – and engagement in – virtual life-based activity?
We are increasingly becoming a generation that’s perpetually plugged in to Virtual Reality… even at the expense of relevant Physical Life experience. Certainly, in fields like marketing and public relations, being unplugged for several hours at a time can be detrimental to productivity. However, that’s still far from justification for never unplugging. Following are just a few of the kinds of occasions upon which it would not only be appropriate, but in one’s best interest, to shut down the smartphone, tablet or other web-enabled device:
1. Practically any occasion where you’re asked to silence or turn off your phone. Why just silence it? Yes, that would benefit the presenter, lecturer and/or other attendees, as it would be difficult enough for them to hear your device vibrate. But, why not simply turn it off – temporarily disabling any incoming messages altogether – for the benefit of yourself? You have the most to gain from an experience to which you are fully attentive, and in which you can fully participate, without unnecessary distraction.
2. At networking events. Whether they’re business affairs, social occasions, or some combination of the two, simply unplug from Virtual Life and plug into Physical Life. There is as much to gain and more. After all, you’re here. You came here for a reason, as did the others in attendance. Why would you divert attention from a chance to share information, resources and opportunities with people who actually show up – just to entertain the musings of Virtual Life associates with whom your interactions will never amount to anything more than distractions?
3. During actual conversations. Do I really need to expound upon this? I mean – did you leave your 18-month-old at home… to baby-sit your 6-month-old? If not, perhaps you could at least mentally unplug long enough to ignore your smartphone alerts until a potential investor finishes her sentence. We wouldn’t want her to think you’re rude – and decide right then and there to invest elsewhere.
Yes, Virtual Reality has become an invaluable dynamic to modern communication; and an indispensable wellspring of systems, strategies and resources for the 21st century business person. However, when we allow it to function as a substitute for Physical Reality – as opposed to a supplement to it – we deprive ourselves of the full experience of Physical Reality; and, subsequently, the irreplaceable degree to which live, face-to-face, human interaction impacts our professional and personal lives.
Old Paradigm: Deals are made on the golf course.
New Paradigm: Deals are made in Physical Reality… we only market their resulting enterprises in Virtual Reality.