Imagine this unlikely scene: 30 or 40 people in a small room talking to another. When you look closer you realize what's out of place — there are no laptops, tablets, not even a single smartphone in hand. You can't remember the last time you saw a group of family members and friends engaged in such a way, with all gadgets put away.
This has happened to me twice this week. A death in the family brought family members together with friends to mourn the passing of a fine lady.
It was a difficult week but for the engagement with one other. We were able to catch up on each other's lives, discuss our passions, relive old times. It was a strong experience, and stronger than it might have been as there was not a single electronic interruption over these three days. Phones were silenced and put away and bigger gadgets were left at home.
I've always tried to step away from the gadgets from time to time, but it can be hard to do regularly. The experience this week has convinced me that it is important for our mental health to have a weekly no gadget day. Leave the devices in a box at the beginning of the day and do without them. The theme should be face-to-face interaction with those around us. No interruptions by the bings and bongs of a cell phone. Simple conversation is the goal, the way it used to be.
Family night would be much richer if no one had a gadget nearby. No checking text messages, no phone calls, nothing. Just talking to those closest to us about their lives, dreams, passions, and plans. In other words relating to one another.
No doubt many of us would raise objections to this day without electronics. What if there was an emergency? How would people get hold of me?
The answer is simple: they did it before the appearance of cell phones, and they'd do it again. Sometimes sacrifices are required for the greater good, and this might be one of those times.
It shouldn't take a sad event like the passing of a loved one, but that's what it took for me. So let's turn that learning into a positive thing and make a no gadget day at home and work. It could be the most significant thing we do in 2014 for our collective mental health.