By Farah Harris, LPC

I appreciate cell phones, especially smart ones. They allow me to make calls, pay bills, navigate trips, surf the web for great restaurants, stay current with all the “happenings” in social media. I can even type notes, take pictures, listen to music, make videos; it’s a mini-genius-computer in your hand! But I have to be honest with you. I have become increasingly annoyed by something else these so-called “smart” phones do --- disconnect us.

These wonderfully cool gadgets connect us to everything and everyone in the world except for the person (or people) who are right in front of you. Like right now, you are probably reading this on your phone when you actually could be actively listening to the person who you are with. There have been countless times when my husband and I are supposed to be having a conversation with each other, but instead we find ourselves distracted by our phones. We are constantly checking to see if we’ve gotten a new text message or email from one of our staff members from our respective ministries, looking at the latest status updates from friends and family on Facebook, and for him, scrolling through endless tweets from people he has never met. And I’m embarrassed to say, that sometimes it is our darling two year old who reminds us that we are not paying attention to him because we are too busy playing with our grown-up toys.

Phones are supposed to help us connect with people, not be the catalyst for disconnection. But unfortunately they are. I realize that I am not alone in this and I have had individuals and couples come into my office and share with me their frustrations of not being able to connect with their partner, friend, or family member. When asked to describe a date night for instance, the activity is often a check in the box more so than an actual time to check-in. Partners find themselves recreating their home life (i.e. distracted by the phone) just in a different environment. This is unacceptable.

We all desire to be fully seen, heard and known. It is already hard enough to fight through peoples' presuppositions, the monotony of life, and our own insecurities, why let technology create another barrier?! We know that relationships are important and they need to be tended to. And it is careless of us to not fully engage with our present company. Time flies, and it flies quicker when you aren’t paying attention to the here-and-now. Being distracted affects how you relate to others and does not allow you to fully experience the present. You don't want to be the person that wonders if you would have spent half the time and energy being fully focused on the face-to-face than Facebook, if your relationship would have stayed intact.

My husband and I are working on leaving our phones in another room so we can better concentrate on each other and our son. My son isn't going to be two forever (thank God!), but I would hate to regret that I didn't fully commit to the precious moments I do have with him. There will be plenty of moments as a mom that will make me feel guilty. Not turning off the phone to watch him do something fabulous won't be one of them.