Bay Area yoga instructor Alice Van Ness was fired from teaching on Facebook’s Menlo Park campus last month, because she discouraged cell phone use during class. Before class began she asked students to turn off their electronic devices – a pretty standard request in the yoga world. However one student apparently felt she couldn’t unplug for a whole hour, and began texting midway through. So Ms. Van Ness shot her a look.
“I’m sure my face said it all. Really? Your e-mail is more important than … taking time for you? It’s more important than everyone else here?”
The student excused herself for a few minutes to take care of her business, but later complained to the fitness center’s managers and Van Ness was fired.
My first reaction when I read this story was… CRAP, you can get fired in Silicon Valley just for giving someone the stink eye? As my friends and family can attest, I don’t play poker for a reason. Let’s just say I don’t have the face for it. This could be trouble.
Next thought: There is one in every class… as well as every movie theatre, concert hall and restaurant. Regrettably, these days there even seems to be one in every public restroom. (Icky, right?)
Actually, there’s probably more like five in every restaurant – at least the ones I go to. This baffles me. It’s true I am an introvert and have a high tolerance for solitude, so grabbing lunch on my own isn’t a big deal to me. In fact, I love lunch-for-one when I’m running errands; Wasn’t that why Kindles were invented?
Are the solo eaters who talk on their phones throughout their meals extroverts, in medical need of conversation to aid digestion? Or is theirs a compulsion resulting from extreme self-consciousness, like “I am not a loser who needs to eat alone. Can’t you hear my nonstop chatter? I have FRIENDS, damn it!”
In public places where even more quiet is expected, and requests are made to silence cell phones, there is still always someone who “forgets” to do so. Then when his or her ring tone pierces the air, disturbing everyone in the room, they pretend to be shocked – SHOCKED – that they are the culprit. Can someone actually be too lazy and/or self-involved to use the mute or vibrate-only features available on every modern cell phone? It would seem so. Or perhaps we have all grown unaccustomed to waiting. For anything.
Technology has provided us innumerable ways to stay connected, and get information whenever we want it. That’s tremendously powerful. Remember when you had to check your home answering machine – from a pay phone! — in case you missed an important call? How about when you had to wait until after the game to tell your friends how much fun you had at the ballpark?
Unfortunately common sense, judgment and manners have not kept pace with technology. Just because you can get (or send) information anytime you want, doesn’t mean you need to do so. And just because something can be addressed immediately, doesn’t mean it can’t wait. Yet these days, you’ll raise eyebrows if you tell someone you are going offline for one hour, or one day, or (gasp!) one week – especially in the corporate environment. But… what if you miss something really important?
But shouldn’t we all be asking, what are we missing today by not being in the moment? In my case, what might I be missing at the ballpark when I am hunkered down, updating my Facebook status in the middle of a San Francisco Giants game? (You know, like a foul ball fired straight at me?)
When was the last time you had a meal with a friend and gave your undivided attention, without checking your smart phone even once? I have to admit, it’s been a while for me. My friends deserve better, though. We all do, don’t we?