Waiting to speak at a conference a fortnight ago, I looked around the room as a speaker offered her best and counted the number of attendees who were doing the “Blackberry prayer” – heads bowed, brows furrowed, thumbs tapping or eyes reading. Toss in a few others who had laptops in wireless mode and I had the sense that at least a third of those in the room were elsewhere, in their own world of electronic communion.
The speaker may be gifted or garbled; the topic may be mesmerizing or a yawn; the day may just started or the afternoon siesta may flag everyone. It doesn’t matter. Almost nothing interests us like messages that buzz our personal digital assistant (PDA), which means that no speaker can compete against the come-hither pull of the electronic tether (See my posts of April 3, 2005 on productivity increases due to communication devices; but also July 14, 2005 on diminished productivity; Oct. 19, 2005 on telecommuters and PDAs; April 23, 2006 and the disappearance of letters and memos; and June 5, 2006 on stress that is elevated by PDAs.).
These addictive, ubiquitous devices have eviscerated our ability to listen attentively for periods of time, let alone to even moderately complex remarks. Group meetings, and even one-on-ones, break down against the irresistible onslaught of the Siren devices. Call me a Luddite, but I don’t like the excessive attention paid to PDAs.