I was excited to be part of the audience at Friday's TEDx Seattle talks at the Pacific Science Center. I feel like I have lots of thoughts and ideas to process. My initial ones being how I process.
Keep in mind that these talks were brought to us, in part, by the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at the University of Washington. And so, inherently, there was an element of attachment to digital media. And anyone who knows me knows that I engage in digital media. I've been blogging, in some capacity for years. I am an active Facebook user. I have Twitter. I manage several Facebook pages and profiles and a couple groups. I text. I read about trends on the topic and was more than familiar with references throughout the day to things like chatroulette and, of course, icanhascheezburger.
On Friday I brought my purse. Inside my purse, besides the usual contents, I tucked my moleskine and a pen.
When I showed up, I immediately noticed laptops, ipads, iphones, droids - if you could connect to the internet, tweet or liveblog - it was there. And it was out. And audience members engaged with their glowing devices for the entire day.
The entire day.
There were some absolutely amazing speakers on stage. And, as an occasional person who speaks or reads in public, I know how the energy and level of engagement of an audience is so important. You feed off of that energy. I couldn't help but find myself distracted by the tapping of keys all around me. The light from the screens.
My friend Amanda sat next to me. She does not have a smart phone. She also took notes the old fashioned way - with a pen and paper. I took notes. I wrote at least one thing during each talk. Something, that I hope, will help trigger my thoughts as I continue to process the amazing things going on around me. In Seattle. In this world.
But I couldn't help but wonder how differently those around me were processing the event. With the constant tweets and Facebook updates and liveblogging? I participate, actively in these media, but I also think there's a time and a place to put it down. To disengage from the distractions of our devices and engage in person. Human to human. Eye contact. In real life.
I wrote about this subject in December. It's a subject I bring up frequently. I think it's an important thing to process this cultural shift we are all experiencing. Various topics around information and technology were brought up today. Are we living in a culture of too much information? Do those who ignore the latest technology get left behind? The technology divide - the lack of access to information on a global level - were hot topics of the day.
I just know this: when I'm talking to, let's say, my Mom on the phone, and I decide to, oh, I dunno, go over to my computer to check my email.... She knows. She can tell I'm doing something other than talking to her. I know I can't really do these two things at once. I can't carry on a (quality) conversation with her and check email at the same time.
Can I have her on the phone and have a half-assed conversation? Sure. Can I be talking to her and type a few words in an email? Sure. But I'm not talking about the quantifiable multi-tasking I can do. I'm talking about the quality of the human interactions I have.
When I was sitting there, I was looking each speaker in the eye. (I'm sure they couldn't see me, due to lighting, but I'm still sure they still had a sense of their audience.) I was hanging on every word. From 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, I listened. Intently. I focused and reflected and felt. I allowed myself that time to take it all in. To be present in the words that were being shared.
I'm sure there was a level of conversation happening around me that I missed. Quotes being tweeted. Hashtags and retweets and links and photos being shared in real time. But I felt like my attention was exactly where I needed it to be.