Mixed Messages


I read with interest the other day this article from Entrepreneur, Soon, Applebee’s May Be Asking You to Put Your Phone Away.

Apparently the idea is that on Taco Tuesday, Applebee’s is considering a ban on the use of technology inside their restaurants.

Excuse me? A restaurant where I’m paying for a meal that can be mass produced on a 3D printer is telling me what I can do with my phone?

Look, I have nothing against Applebee’s. Their food is as okay as any other chain restaurant. I’ve never really had a problem with them.

Well, there was that one time we walked out on our lunch after waiting more than thirty minutes and watching our waiter chat up the bartender without ever checking the kitchen. But, that’s another story. And an Applebee’s we’ll never visit again.

But to tell me I can’t check my phone in your restaurant while I’m waiting on my meal?

Ironically, not long after I read the article I got an email from Applebee’s offering five dollars off on my next visit.

The best part? “Show this email to your server on a smartphone.”

Let’s hope it’s not a Tuesday.

All this being said, I know that we’re far too dependent upon our technology. We don’t want to miss an email, or a text, or a Facebook update. We’ve got to Instagram everything.

I’m right in the middle of it. My current frustration is that my iPhone5 won’t hold a charge and I can’t upgrade until November. Again, another story.

But I know too often you’ll find my family sitting at at restaurant table with our devices out, checking an email, counting calories, playing a game.

I understand and agree that too much technology is not necessarily a good thing.

My wife wants us to go offline at the beach. I’m willing to scale back, but if I deprive my adoring fans of my daily brilliance, they’ll riot.

Plus, the 14-year-old will just have return from a three week park experience where he’s not only done manual labor (relax, he’s also getting paid), but he’ll have been electronic free for the duration. Telling him he can’t have an electronics on vacation would be a bit excessive, in my opinion.

I did draw the line when he asked if he could take the Hot Spot to the beach to have wifi with his iPad. Um….no.

We will scale back significantly. I plan to have a good deal of my blogging and other posts done ahead of time so that I don’t have to do that from the beach.

But scaling back will be our choice.

I grow weary of the well-intended telling us how our society is all going to hell in a handbasket because of our cell phones. Telling us how communiating by text or email is not really communicating. Telling us how we’re all really lonely and not connected at all.

Spare. Me.

Granted, personal communcation on a face-to-face basis is much better. But through social media like Facebook and Twitter, I am now connected to people I haven’t seen in years. I hear daily from a college roommate that I still haven’t seen in person since we graduated. Not to tell you how old we are, but Jimmy Carter was president.

My reality is, and yours may vary, that I’m even better connected to people I see on a regular basis.

Last night at an outdoor concert at church, I snapped a picture. A friend came up behind me and said “you’d better get that on Facebook” which of course I did (via Instagram). But the thing is, before Facebook, this friend and I had never spoken in person. We saw each other at a distance and probably did the courteous nod of acknowledgement, but I don’t recall a time we ever actually had a conversation. We’re still not best buddies, but we are stronger acquantainces because of social media, and because through that tool, we’ve found common ground.

We found that common ground through tools such as social media. Through tools such as technology.

The trick is not to allow that technology to rule us. There’s a time to have your phone on silent. There’s a time to turn your phone off. There’s a time to log out.

But just remember if it’s Tuesday, I won’t be at Applebees.

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