People have no time to be idle

I saw it again last Saturday night. At the restaurant where my wife and I were sharing a nice dinner on a snowy Saturday night there was a couple at the next table who spent a good part of the time reading/typing on their mobile devices. They were not talking, nor glancing at one another. The really sad thing (at least as far as I am concerned) is that is not all that unusual.

Now this is going to make me sound old – maybe older than I am, but I remember when there were no mobile devices and you actually had to have a conversation with the person with whom you were sharing a meal. You couldn’t fake a call from someone in order to get out of a bad ‘blind’ date or any kind of date for that matter which just made it much more challenging BTW.

Look around any restaurant for someone sitting by themselves. Perhaps they are waiting for someone(s). Maybe they are eating alone. But how often do you see a single person just sitting there looking out and around, not on their mobile device? Of course many people read a book or magazine (electronic or not) when dining alone but I recall from black and white movies a time where someone would sit in a restaurant and not read anything and simply just sit there and wait, and think. Could you imagine?

How often during your waking hours do you not engage in some sort of stimulus? That is, how often do you just sit, stand, or run, and think without any other stimulus (think iPod)? I think for many people this is happening to an increasing degree (in the U.S. at least) and is inexorably changing not only the way people interact but even more significantly people’s ability to spend idle time simply thinking about whatever crosses one’s mind. It’s even more prevalent for people under 30 who appear to me to never stop interacting with technology when not in the presence of others. Is there any time that they just sit and do nothing but think or day dream?

It goes way beyond the seeming inability of people to spend any idle time. Answering an email or phone call when in the presence of others when 99% of those contacts are not emergencies is not multi-tasking in my opinion. How can you make the person you are with feel that you care about them or what they are saying when you stop to answer a phone call, text or email? But somehow that’s become the norm rather than the exception. People not only have difficulty being idle, they feel the need to manage two interactions simultaneously.

How about you? Do you spend quiet time just thinking? No music or electronics of any kind. Quiet. Can you? Will you?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
This entry was posted in Communication, Customer Experiences, Living in the World Today, Technology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to People have no time to be idle

  1. Hi Mark, on one level I really think that this constant, immediate and almost nervous texting/email responding can be detrimental to the way people do business. There seems to be more thought put into the speed of a response than the actual response itself. If people took a little more time to think about a proactive and progressive response rather than simply deflecting a client’s request or question – then maybe there wouldn’t be this constant desperation to reply to someone no matter what the time of day. Maybe it would decrease the amount of emails a client needs to send? One very successful media company in the UK (owned by a Boomtown Rat) has an internal policy of not opening any emails until after 1pm. All the clients know this and the mornings are spent doing what the company gets paid to do!
    Point 2: I try every day (and manage 4 out of 5 days) to have 15 minutes on my own with a piece of paper and a pen OUTSIDE in the fresh air. I use this time to think (and people watch of course) however, I find it clears my head and gets me back on target, I progress ideas, formulate, dream and would generally recommend it.

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    • markkolier says:

      Interesting approach and I like it Chris, and thanks for the comment. I don’t want to come off sounding like I am a Luddite or anti-technology person – but there can be limits right?

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  2. No way, you’re one of the most progressive thinkers I know and I believe you harness technology to the full. But I agree, some times it’s best to go back to nature a little and its just rude not just for the partners but for other people in the restaurant as well – tap, tapping all the time. I’m with you on this one 110%

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