Are We Losing the Ability to Connect with Each Other?

On a recent business trip, I stayed at a hotel that was hosting a conference for a large company.  Signs welcomed attendees.  Attendees had badges and shirts that identified they worked for the company.  I got on an elevator with 5 or 6 people wearing the company’s shirts and the conference badges.  Everyone one of them was looking down at his or her phone. There was not a word to be said or even a friendly smile to the others on the elevator. 

Demonstrating my superior diplomatic skills (or as a friend often says, my ability to “stir the pot”), I asked a man next to me where he was from.  He mumbled something that sounded like Seattle.  I asked if all the others on the elevator were from Seattle.  He said, “I don’t know any of these people.”  I responded, quite loudly, “Aren’t you here to meet these people?”  He gave me a dirty look and shrugged his shoulders.  Everyone else pretended to ignore the conversation and bury themselves deeper in their phones.  Our elevator ride ended.  I think two of the people were so glued to their phones that they rode it back up!

I’m sure an HR executive planned team building activities during this conference.  There were probably “trust falls” or some other activity in which an overpaid facilitator creates an environment meant to encourage bonding.  How about banning phones on elevators or in meetings?  That might encourage people to interact and bond with each other.  And it’s free. 

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