You don’t know what you’re missing. But you’re missing a lot. According to Sherry Turkle, our phones have not just changed what we do, but changed who we are. “We don’t experience interruptions as disruptions any more,” Turkle writes.
“But they make it hard to settle into conversations with ourselves and others because emotionally we keep ourselves available to be taken away from everything.” We’re always ready to press pause.
As the neuroscientists seem to be saying, synaptic pathways that go unused deteriorate. If you recall the movie The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel tries to reconstruct a vanished memory that collapses into dust and darkness around him. Light flashes on the contents of his mind and go dark as he rushes to seize them. Or that’s my memory of it.
It’s a good image for what maybe happening in the habit of snapping, checking in, and texting: being ready to pause creates a habit of furtiveness and topical awareness but makes us less capable of conversation with others and ourselves. Turkle thinks that we may be threatening our minds’ richest capabilities. They’re the ones we need most in the 21st century.
Not only do we have big problems to work on, we have great potential that’s not yet realized. I mean yours and mine, but also the capabilities and creative solutions that emerge from working together. Even if you’re leading a company in a very competitive market – playing the zero sum game, the blood sport – you need to know the sinkholes to stay out of and how to motivate your people. Only solving today’s problems sows the seeds of tomorrows problems. What are you missing? If you don’t know, you’re missing a lot.
Unless we’re willing to find out what’s right there below the surface of the present, waiting for a little light and synaptic attention, we won’t know what we’re missing.