THE BLOG

The Simultaneous Present

03/18/2014 12:08 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2014

"Sorry, I'm listening. I just have to respond to this text message." How many times have you heard this? How many times have you said this yourself? With the ability to be involved in multiple conversations or social interactions simultaneously, we experience multiple presents. But by living in these "simultaneous presents," do we lose the ability to truly "live in the moment?" Are we too preoccupied multitasking that the real present just slips by, unattended?

Busyness is nothing new. The struggle between doing everything one wants to do and what one actually has time for has probably persisted since cavemen had to decide if they were going to build a fire, find food or make a bed. But now, technology allows us to multitask more efficiently. However, while multitasking can be productive, it can also limit one's focus on specific people or circumstances.

From concerts, to births, to cocktails, phones share the moment with those who are not present. Instead of watching concerts live, we experience them through the screens of our cell phones. Yes, now you have a great Instagram, but are you going to remember anything about the concert except trying to get the perfect body alignment so that your arm didn't get tired from holding your phone up?

When talking to someone who suddenly pauses to check an email or respond to a text -- "I just need to see what time we're supposed to meet up." -- the conversation suddenly shifts. Believe me, I hate it, but I do it too. We are so accessible, not only do we have to apologize for interrupting the conversation to talk to someone else, but now we also must apologize to people when we do not respond to their messages immediately. Uninterrupted conversations are interactions of the past.

Moreover, this love of accessibility and efficiency has created new social norms. "I talked to her the other day" now implies nothing about actual verbal communication. It simply implies some sort of exchange of language. Calling someone on the phone is quite a big deal. You deliberately choose one conversation, and if you do decide to text others, your lack of focus becomes quite obvious. In contrast, if you text multiple people at once, you can seamlessly maintain a series of conversations, catching up with all your friends, scheduling appointments and maybe even finalizing details for the latest project at work without anyone knowing that he or she is not the center of attention. Now that's efficiency. Of course, this backfires when you accidentally send a text message to the wrong person. Otherwise, however, you can feel like you "saw" many of your friends while going about your daily errands and activities. Who needs to schedule a coffee date when you can just Facetime from the comfort of your couch at home or the confines of your desk at work?

Also, with the ability to send quick updates, people can experience your day as if they were walking right next to you. That cute guy on the street I saw today, my friends already knew about him within minutes of the sighting. And this constant communication does not stop in your social life. If your boss needs you to answer a question after you left the office, no problem. You're just a click away.

The fact that you can get a question answered within seconds is truly amazing. However, the fact that people know you can answer their questions within seconds and are expected to apologize for not doing so, well, is something that I find less enchanting.

Because we have the ability to keep others posted about our lives, we are basically expected to do so. But do we spend so much time keeping people posted all at once that we never fully experience what we are updating them about?

I recently toasted one of my friends at dinner and photographed it. Because I was so preoccupied with getting the flash just right (the restaurant was dark, and the photo could easily get blurry), I forgot to say anything. I took the picture; we put our glasses down and continued talking. Suddenly, I realized what just happened, paused the conversation that ensued and toasted again, this time with no picture. That's the moment I remember.

So why do we spend so much time capturing and sharing moments if they prevent us from actually living in them? Maybe it's not just about stopping and smelling the roses; maybe it's about sharing a moment with that rose and truly appreciating it. And maybe, just maybe, you'll keep that moment between you and the rose.