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As they entered the room and shook hands in a formal manner, he sized up the crowd with a quick look. He found no familiar faces, except his coworker who accompanied him to the interview. Everyone seemed a bit tense. “Perhaps they don’t want to be here as much as I don’t.”, he pondered.
Very quick eye contacts were exchanged in passing between the interviewers and interviewees while everyone was taking their seats. No authentic connection, nothing more than a quick, insignificant acknowledgement expressed at a glance. A kind of glance that one grants the headlines of a paper or pictures in a magazine during a boring plane ride. Certainly not long enough to acknowledge the humanity of the other individual. After all, why should they even try? They didn’t choose to be here. It was part of “ the job” they were given to perform.
The presenters were asked to sit in a row at the opposing side of the table. They seemed a bit unnerved after the very cold and disconnected initial engagement. The official start of the interview was announced in a robotic, rule stricken way and the clock started ticking.
I was part of the interviewee team, mostly as an observer. My only task was to introduce the team and then I had the opportunity to observe. I noticed there is one, only one, interviewer in the room that is fully present and seems interested. Of all the five panelists physically present, one was sitting sideways playing with his pen ( at least not on his phone); next one sitting chin down and avoiding any eye contact; one was looking straight as if in a battlefield, making sure no trace of a smile or positive affirmation crossed his face and then, between him and the only engaged participant, sat a teenager in a grown up body whose fingers were moving rapidly on his handheld device and whose eyes never left the screen. Never. “ Is he tweeting? Is he taking notes? Is he playing?”, my mind kept wandering. And as I watched him, and observed the interview taking a very wrong turn, I couldn’t help getting lost in the repercussions of the generation we are raising. A generation attached to their screens, fully not-present with everything that is going on around them; from human connection and an eye contact to changes in the season and nature to their physical and built environment. What do they truly take notice of?
Looking back at my own childhood, teenage years and college, I can remember events so clearly as if they just happened. I lived every moment fully; from the 5 year old me ordering “leg” instead of “egg” for my parents’ breakfast in England, to the birthday sleepover when for the first time we stayed up all night talking, to the cup of tea on top of Touchal peak in Tehran, to the first job interview, the first overseas trip after revolution and the last spring celebration back home. None of them were tweeted. None of those moments I lived went viral on social media. They were never honored with “like”s. I didn’t check in on-line for the first kiss. I never tagged my friends for that picnic in the suburbs where we had to make fire in rain to grill our food. I didn’t “ go live”, I was ALIVE and PRESENT. Every moment of those memories was, and still is etched on my soul without the anxiety of having to “post” it. Life used to be lived, not screened.
I leaned back. The interview was a lost cause. They obviously were not open to even listening to us. I accepted the fact. Maybe I was supposed to be there to start thinking about my “ screen attachments”, my own and others.
What kind of memories am I creating?
What would be left of me when all my social media accounts are closed due to lack of one more breath?
How would my eyes thank me for using them appropriately, or not?
What kind of memories would I create if I am not concerned about “ post”ing them?
How authentic are the memories that live on my screen?
How much of the pain and discomfort that is a part of life am I including in my virtual memories?
A world of questions! I don’t have all the answers. I just know that every breath I intend to live; more wholeheartedly and more present. I intend to be ALIVE!
My thoughts go to the interviewer… He must still be on his screen….I wonder if he would even recognize me next time we meet, or if he would notice that the season has changed!