Presence v. Participation

One of the interesting aspects of last weeks LikeMinds conference was the phenomenon that I have experienced in a few good conferences (I use that term carefully), that when the most interesting stuff was being said on stage the twitter stream died of... Interesting I think to myself. The #LikeMinds boys!

It's not that the #tag went completely silent, but you could certainly see and feel a dip in it's momentum. It seemed for a second that the fact that someone had got up on stage to share something with us in the room that was truly interesting, people began to opt for being present where they were, rather than participating (or for some broadcasting their pithy comments) in the conversation on Twitter.

You may now be sat thinking - yes James, this is plainly obvious, why waste your time telling us this. Well you may be right, when we are presented with something really interesting, mixed with the social etiquette of a person on a state, sure we pay attention. But what about at home watching a movie, or at the dinner table in a restaurant or in a lecture? Do you find yourself, your partner or your friends checking Twitter, Facebook or reading the football scores? Or maybe your fingers wander to that level of Angry Birds that was giving you trouble in the tube home?

The thing is, I know this is my experience. For all that I love about these technologies, for all the connectedness they bring, I also find a constant struggle against what has just become the norm, the battle to remain present where I am, with who I spend my time with. It's not easy when these things become so engrained in our way of life. As my friend Jeff Pulver often says "social media is like air" it's becoming just the way many of us (not all I know) live our lives.

But in the same way that many of us found at LikeMinds and as I find my wife Constantly reminds me (as I in turn remind her) that there will always be down time to tweet, blog and post - but the moments of true connectedness are found when we meet, visit and worship together, and right there in those moments by our very presence we are participating, writing new lines of living code into His great tapestry.

At the start of this new week let's give it a go. Being present, participate with what you find in front of you. Practice being present.