Living vs. Documenting the Moment


A few days ago I attended a lecture by Dr. Alec Couros at a Leadereship Launch for Peel educators. During his talk, Alec showed a few images of people using their phones or other PEDs to take pictures or send text messages while in the midst of important life events (a kiss, a reunion, a plane crash). He pointed out that although technology can make us more connected, there is a potential danger of missing opportunities to live in and enjoy special moments with those who are physically around us at the expense of constantly documenting our experiences for others through social media.

As he was saying this I was trying to connect to the Wi-Fi network with my iPad, and although my heart was in total agreement with his point, my mind was racing with curiosity about what others were tweeting about the lecture. As Alec went on, my palms were actually getting sweaty from pulling down my twitter feed, hoping the Wi-Fi would finally connect.  I realized, as I sat there trying to focus on the amazing lecture, that I have become like the people on the pictures, not able to fully engage in and appreciate the moment.

When did this happen? I used to be the person telling my husband to put the camera away during family vacations or special occasions. I constantly reminded him that we should enjoy whatever experience we were immersed in, instead of capturing everything for others to see later. Yet here I was, after looking forward to Alec’s talk for days, all stressed out and frazzled over a poor Internet connection.

As our school’s Open House was scheduled to start at six o’clock that same day, I had to leave the lecture early and rush back to school. On the short drive back I went over some of the things I wanted to communicate to parents about the use of technology in our school. However, the thought that kept running through my mind was how uncomfortable being ‘unplugged’ made me feel during the lecture, and how disappointed I was with myself for feeling that way. Was I becoming a Twitter ‘junkie’? Did I need a social media detox, a fast from all electronic devices to help me appreciate being in the moment?

Recently, students at Rick Hansen S.S. did just that, for 23 hours. The idea was to give up using all PEDs in order to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. During their overnight fast, students stayed at the school and “took part in a variety of team building exercises and workshops to build skills in face-to-face communication and advocacy” ( Although some reported that being without a cell phone was difficult, the majority of tweets after the event were very positive:

That evening I spoke to many parents during our Open House, mainly discussing the use of technology in our school. However, I also ended up having some honest conversations with several parents about the need for balance when it comes to technology. As much as I am in favour of using social media to collaborate and make meaningful connections with people around the globe, I think it’s increasingly important in today’s tech-filled world not to do so at the expense of truly appreciating and experiencing real life events.  Without the temptation of using our mobile devices, it can actually be liberating to purposefully unplug once in a while (just like the students at Rick Hansen S.S. have done) and allow ourselves to fully appreciate the moment.  So, as the saying goes, I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to “stop and smell the roses” more often, instead of taking their picture to post for others to enjoy on social media.



Posted on October 10, 2013, in 21st Century and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Magdalena,

    I was feeling a lot of the same feelings that you were, especially about looking forward to hearing Alec Couros and being frustrated with the Wi-Fi connection. Yes, neither of us was fully engaged in his message for the few minutes when we were thinking about our Wi-Fi, but I would argue that during a keynote presentation, most people are even more engaged when we are connecting to other people through Twitter than we are if we are taking notes or quietly listening. If we are sitting with someone we know, we can exchange looks and thoughts to actively engage in the presentation, but if we are sitting with strangers it seems a bit rude to talk to them (or make faces). Reading what other people are Tweeting and thinking & Tweeting my own thoughts and a-ha’s actually helps me be more fully engaged and involved than just sitting and listening. But…Tweeting during a keynote is different than sitting down to a family dinner 🙂


    • Thanks for reading my post Debbie, and for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I wish I had ran into you that day, our first face-to-face didn’t happen until a few weeks later at ECOO. That’s one of the reasons I was so anxious at not being able to connect to Wi-Fi, I wanted to see if you were there. I absolutely agree with what you’re saying; instead of taking notes just for yourself, why not share them with everyone else? Especially if it helps you focus and make more sense of the lecture. My issue was more with my own discomfort at not being able to just sit back and enjoy the lecture, I needed to be connected. It’s like that image of the hierarchy of basic human needs, with Wi-Fi at the very base (you can see it here:

      I believe I did nudge Carla Pereira (who was sitting in front of me) in the back a couple of times; needing some interaction, but felt rude doing it as I did not know her very well in person. Living in, as opposed to documenting, the moment becomes especially important at those family dinners you mentioned. A friend of mine, who does not have Wi-Fi at home, told me how disappointed many of her Christmas dinner guest were to learn that. One boy kept wondering around the whole house searching for a signal and she did not have the heart to tell him there was no Wi-Fi in the house. Are we becoming too dependent on our mobile devices and the Internet? Dave Guymon gave some great advice on how to achieve a tech-life balance here:

  1. Pingback: 5 Reasons Why I’m a Low Tech Parent | (Up)Front and Centre

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: