I met an old friend last month for dinner at a restaurant in historic Philadelphia. On the surface, the building appeared to be a bookstore, but it was actually a restaurant themed as a 1920’s speakeasy. We grabbed a table and opened the menus that were pasted into old books. The rules were presented to us first. “This is the 1920’s and cell phones have not been invented yet. Your dining companion wants to speak with you, not the top of your head.” We silenced our phones, stashed them in our coats and began talking, reviving the lost art of eye contact and conversation with the staccato of beeps and buzzing to interrupt us. It was old-fashioned, meaningful dialogue between lifelong friends.
Some weeks later, I was developing a training module, and I thought back to this interaction. I realized we always refer to connectedness and attention issues as a problem of the younger generation, but I wondered if that is really true. As I am cresting toward 40 (not there yet), I am no longer that young generation. Yet, I too struggle with remaining focused due to the distractions around me.