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Waddingham: The challenge of learning when to unplug

Published: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 11:40 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 1:04 p.m. CDT

As a journalist, I was a latecomer to the smart phone technology craze. It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I traded in my old flip phone for a new iPhone.

It is a valuable tool that I use daily. I check Twitter for live steaming events, Facebook keeps me updated on what local friends are doing day-to-day and I utilize group texts to set up meetings.

But early in my career, I learned the importance of knowing when to put away the technology and focus on the task at hand.

Larry Peterson was showing me how to edit photos to get them ready for the print edition. While I was interested in the topic and wanted to provide good photos, my phone was consistently vibrating in my pocket.

I pulled it out, flipped it open and responded quick to a text. I thought I had taken care of the distraction in a quick and discrete way, but Larry was quick to notice my divided attention.

During my review at the end of my tenure as an intern, he mentioned that exact moment and explained the proper time to multitask.

Since then, I have always tried to pay attention to when and where I get my social media and technology fix. I am still on my phone and computer more often than I would like, but I am constantly trying to find activities that do not require technology.

When I am out on a date, I switch my phone onto airplane mode so it stops buzzing and doesn’t use up a lot of battery. That way if we need directions or have to call a friend later to confirm plans, I have it as a backup, but my attention is on her.

Some of my friends avoid being stuck on their phones by placing all their phones in the middle of the table. The first person to touch their phone pays for the next round of beverages.

The topic of unplugging has started to become popular for television commercials as different products try to show how their product can help you get a needed break from technology.

I also enjoyed attending and photographing Greenfield’s unplugging day. They did a great job finding activities for people to do, I just wish the weather would have cooperated a little better for the start of the event.

Using smart phones and other technology is a great way to stay connected with old friends and can be very helpful tools for work, but my best memories with friends are not the conversations we had through text messages.

And even though I connect with Larry more often via social media because of our different work hours, I am glad he took the time to explain the importance of unplugging early in my career so I am always conscious of the attention I give to the people I am currently with.

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