I took my kids to the eye doctor earlier this week—optometrist is the word if I wanted to sound smart.
While in the waiting room, I watched an event unfold. I thought I’d share it with you.
A young child emerged from the examination room followed by the doctor and I assume, the child’s mother. On the other side of the waiting room, sat the child’s father and older brother, I’m guessing somewhere in his early teens.
The older brother, as is typically the case these days, was playing on his phone while awaiting his turn with the doctor. The father flipped through a magazine. Pretty standard stuff.
As the doctor walked toward the father and son, mom and daughter headed off into the showroom to pick out new frames (that’s always the hardest part—picking out new glasses).
When the doctor arrived, the father put down his magazine and turned his attention toward the optometrist to get a summary of the appointment: Nothing to worry about, everything was fine. A slight increase in prescription was recommended, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The father asked a few follow-up questions. His eyes were locked in on the doctor absorbing as much of the conversation as he could.
His son, on the other hand, took a different posture. Throughout the entire interaction, the son continued on his phone—focused on whatever might be drawing the attention of teenage boys these days. He did look up briefly, but I assume only at points in the game that were not important. For the most part, he was involved with his phone.
I wanted to nudge him. I wanted to lean over to the young boy and whisper, “Put down your phone for a second. I know you don’t know the doctor, and the conversation taking place may not affect you, but that is a human being standing right in front of you. And THAT person, whether you know him or not, is more important than your phone.”
It was a memorable moment—the words I wanted to say—not because I blamed the child, or the father, or the doctor, or anyone else. It was memorable because the statement I wanted to whisper wasn’t just about the young boy. The statement was about me—about all of us really.
When my wife walks into the room, do I stop what I’m doing on my phone or computer? I should. Because she is more important than my phone.
When my kids walk into the room, do I stop what I’m doing on my phone? I should. Because they are more important than my phone.
While spending time with my extended family and loved ones over the Christmas season, together in the same living room, will I stop what I’m doing on my phone and be present with them? I should. Those people, after all, are more important than my phone.
But this extends beyond our closest family and friends, this same courtesy should be extended to every human being. A human being does not receive their worth on whether I know them or not. They are valuable, they are important, they are worthy of my attention—whether I’ve ever met them before or not.
I think that’s what struck so deep about the events in the waiting room that day. The young man did not know the doctor, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is more important than a game on a phone.
When I order my coffee, do I stop everything else I’m doing, put down my phone, look the barista in the eye, and offer a smile? I should. Because THAT person is more important than my phone.
So is the bank teller, the gas station attendant, and the bell ringer sitting outside the doors at Wal-Mart collecting money for the poor. THAT person is more important than my phone.
The waitress, the cashier, the stock boy, the young child in front of me at McDonalds, the UPS man, the gentleman pumping gas next to me, the doctor, the attorney, the co-worker (even the annoying one)… they are all more important than my phone.
There’s nothing wrong with phones. I appreciate all the positive changes they have brought into my life. But too often, they distract us from the people around us—both friends and strangers.
This season, let’s adopt an approach to life (and our phones) that directs value where it belongs.
The next time you have opportunity to direct attention toward another human being, keep this reminder in mind: THAT person is more important than my phone.
Tristen Gastelo says
Randy Willr says
Thank you, very well said and so true
perhaps true but kinda self righteous. ‘should’ is not often a good word.
If should is the problem here, you’ve missed the point. The callousness and disregard for human beings is what enables a lack if conscience. Feeling shamed for not caring in a culture where lives are lost from it, is exactly what people need to feel.
Lack of conscience isn’t a sign of a health.
I use my phone when I am back to my house. I receive my messages by email or through my free apps
allowing someone when so much freedom has left being overused in public space under terms and conditions I leave mine in my car always
Wow…I found myself wondering why you would be in a room with loved ones at Christmas time on your phone. Physician, heal thyself? Other than this post, I love your work!
And your dog. Your dog is more important than the phone. It’s a true thing. Thank you for the reminder. Everyone should read this.
I find this article, and others like it, so judgmental, arrogant, and snarky that the message, which is actually perfectly good, is completely lost in its tone. Who the heck is the author of this article to think they know what is more important to that kid. How do they know if the child is using the phone as a coping mechanism because they are socially anxious or have a fear of doctors. Or perhaps, adults have disappointed this child so much that they carry no value whatsoever for the child. Had the author of the article withheld their judgmental projections, based in ignorance and arrogance, and simply addressed what they considered to add value to humans then I probably would have been more amenable to their message.
joshua becker says
I’m the author. I’m right here and happy to answer any question you might have.
From my experience, you are spot on! I am an elderly adult and I struggle to stay off my phone and focus on the here and now. Thanks for reminding us that people are most important. Our devices are either addictive or just an easy escape where we retreat from the pressure of interaction. I have a struggle to stay engaged rather than retreat to the screen.
To the contrary, I think his message is valuable and worth considering and not judgmental, at all. Snarky? Good grief! Social media devices are fine but encouraging young people to personally engage is important.
Sherby N. says
I was torn in between and have seen how I changed in the way it was dealt with in a blinky. This has induced muscle work and stagnant fixation for a long period. I believe for younger people it should be not earlier than 12 year old that you can let them plug in. That’s not what you can see in some place. Kids use chrome and watch TV, see their heroes in action “in stores”, may be 12 year old is too idealistic. I say it only from my own experience. Anyway, there are programs that are interesting and can be entertaining. I do agree that would only partially a bring relief, sadly.
Christy Skipper says
I see this day in and day out in my own family directly and I too see it when I am out. Kids and adults spend way too much on their phones instead of focusing on what is going on in the very room they are sitting in and the others in the room with them. I loved this article.
True story: I’m a family physician, and I had a visit with a patient I knew about a year ago, and she was playing Candy Crush on her phone for most of the visit. There would be these long pauses while I waited for her to pay attention, or I’d have to repeat what I asked. I wasn’t sure what to say— after the fact, I thought something like, “Hey, your health is more important than that game” might work? It’s not like I had only good news for her or like she had no questions or issues. So in this situation, she herself wasn’t even as important as the phone.
Samantha Boyd says
Thank you for this timely reminder. I agree wholeheartedly and will be doing this myself from now on. Merry Christmas
Your post had reminded me of an incident. I just met a fellow artist in person for the first time. She and I had communicated over Facebook and had developed a relationship with her. But as I was talking to her, she constantly was checking her phone. After making an attempt to carry a conversation with her, I dismissed myself. It just wasn’t worth competing with her phone. I felt I wasn’t worth her time.
This is so true! Great reminder :) Happy Holidays!
Great post! I’m currently taking a break from social media and becoming more intentional about spending less time sucked into my phone! I hope I can always make the people around me (strangers or not) feel important enough to have my attention. I believe that’s what Jesus would have done. And that’s the goal, to be more like Him.