It’s the first day of kindergarten. I’m a shy, skinny kid about to enter a room full of strangers. Preschool was a blast — finger painting, snack time, nap time and TWO RECESSES!! But now it is time to step into the “real world.” A world in which my trusty security blanket, Blankie, must wait in the car until Mom picks me up. What if I get cold? What if Mom forgets me and I’m forced to build a makeshift shelter without Blankie available as a roof? Most importantly, what will I hide behind if a stranger talks to me? Blankie is portable, has many very practical functions, and I just can’t see why anyone would make me leave it behind.
Flash forward a whole mess of years. I still feel like that shy, skinny kid when I step into a new and uncomfortable situation. Luckily, I have my phone, tablet and laptop with me at all times to hide behind. Not to mention someone may be trying to email/call/text/FaceTime/tweet/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat me. Better check them all. Nothing? How about now? Hmmm … well, I still don’t know anyone here. So I better check my fantasy football team.
Right about now, the extroverts reading this are probably saying “That’s not me.” You are absolutely right. Not everyone walking around the networking reception with their face in a phone is trying, like me, to avoid stranger danger. Some really are receiving important texts, answering client emails, promoting their business (or your meeting) on social media, or perhaps picking up this week’s hottest fantasy free agent running back off of the waiver wire. Whether you mean to or not, you are still effectively hidden.
A recent trend in meeting planning takes a cue from kindergarten. Planners are creating “no-cell zones” where people are forced to put all electronic devices away and *gasp* interact face-to-face. As an introverted techie, I absolutely hate this on every level. My devices are an extension of my very soul. How can you power down my soul!? However, because I can’t think of a logical rebuttal better than throwing a massive temper tantrum of which any 5-year-old would be proud, there’s probably some merit to the idea.
This is where I was hoping to pull out some mind-blowing statistic on phone usage at meetings and how it relates to professional development. The truth is I couldn’t find any data: either mind-blowing or mind-numbing. We all know that 83 percent of statistics are made up anyway.
So, in the spirit of ditching our instant gratification information machines in favor of real human interaction, let’s gather some anecdotal evidence. I asked around the office to get a quick emotional temperature check on the no-cell zone idea. The feedback was widely varied and fairly predictable.
There was a “Good luck trying to get everyone to shut off their phones. You can’t even get people to not answer phone calls in a movie theater.”
There were several very level-headed “It’s a good idea … in very small doses. After all, we are adults.”
Concerns were raised. “What if there is an emergency at the kid’s school?” One of my more free-spirited co-workers would be happy to check her phone at the door for days at a time in the pursuit of fewer distractions and better engagement (as long as it wasn’t misplaced).
My arguably most gadget-obsessed co-worker blasted the idea saying, “The general contempt for cell devices is generally due to people wanting to maintain an era that has long since died.” He further asserted that he would be more distracted constantly thinking about what he’s missing on his lifeless phone.
The results of my unofficial, unscientific survey were surprisingly negative. Then again, if you took a poll asking kindergarteners how they’d feel about giving up their favorite blanket or doll, negative results would hardly be a surprise. I survived kindergarten without Blankie and probably became a stronger person that day.
The next time I walk into a meeting with a no-cell zone, I will take a few deep breaths, turn off my devices, wipe away my tears and try to make the most of it. After all, what doesn’t kill us will only … wait, hold that thought. I just got a text.
Are you for, against or undecided on the no-cell zone idea? We want to know. Let’s discuss in the comment section below.