I just spoke at the annual meeting of SIM (the Society of Information Management (SIM). These are corporate Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Information Technology (IT) specialists who know me, they’ve read my books in their Leadership Learning Forums (LLF) and have listened to me talk to them over the last 20 years about the many ways there are for human beings to share information. We have explored the unconscious, entered trance states, and participated in ceremonies.
This year I talked about how the handheld computer is reprogramming human behavior on a massive scale. We are becoming addicted to the ping of an arriving call or text that triggers a burst of endorphins which stimulate the reward centers in the brain, and urge us to want more.
85% of all Americans are never more than an arms length away from their phones. In our culture, it is almost unimaginable to think about what life is like without the pings. Late-night show host Arsenio Hall recently said that he had the worst day in his life when he inadvertently left his iPhone at home. I can’t be the only one who is terrified of what seems to me to be a cultural addiction to the ping. We are afraid that if we disconnect we might miss out on something that could be more important or exciting than whatever we are or are doing in the moment.
We defend our habit by exclaiming it could be an emergency and that we always have a choice about whether or not to respond to the intrusion. The bottom line is that it always takes us away from the moment and makes wherever we are or are doing never enough.
Our fetish with multitasking makes it possible to do many things but none of them as well as we could if we were more focused. I think we are suffering from Cultural Attention Deficit Disorder, that is manifesting in an epidemic of stress related mental illness and taking too many drugs.
Here is an antidote; come to the Thanksgiving table without your cellphones, make it the family ritual it is and be with each other in this moment. Tell family stories that remind you of all the things you are thankful for and what’s most important to you.
Life is what happens between the pings.
Happy Thanksgiving, I say this To All My Relations, Mi Takuye Oyacin.