I am standing on the jetway in St. Louis, loading onto a plane to NY, and the woman ahead of me is playing a game on her phone. Not that unusual but at the same time, it got me thinking. We are only standing in line. It is a slightly boring moment, much less exciting than many other moments I’ve had, but it’s not unbearable. Soon, we’ll be on the plane, and she’s playing a game. In that instance, I thought, we don’t feel anything uncomfortable anymore.
We avoid discomfort, awkwardness, boredom, loneliness like the plague. Thank goodness for smart phones, it’s easy to do:
- We wait in line and play games; we don’t feel boredom, tension, or frustration.
- We sit alone in a restaurant, airport, or coffeeshop, and we text or Facebook or tweet or read emails; we don’t feel alone or awkward. (Have you ever tried to sit in a restaurant alone and eat a meal with full confidence in yourself without resorting to a distraction? I have. It’s terrifying and amazing.)
- When there are silences or lulls in conversations, we check our phone, get on twitter, pull up pictures on our phones to prompt more words; we don’t feel awkward. (I have a feeling were getting less capable of dealing with — much less enjoying — silence).
What are we going to do with a world full of people who can never be uncomfortable, bored, lonely, tense…. present. What happens when you avoid or distract yourself from the ways you have naturally to deal with discomfort? Do we become less resilient? Less capable?
At this moment, I am on the verge of getting a smart phone, so I wonder what discomforts I will use my phone to soothe. I promise myself now that I will give myself opportunities and dinners and days where I will not take out my phone, where I will remember what I am capable of experiencing when I am present in the moment, not absorbed in a screen or hiding from thoughts in a mindless game in an airport line.