Today’s post is the featured article from the December 2012 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

john-newIn the last month, between Hanukkah and Christmas, there have been a lot of presents exchanged. Yet, I wonder how much “presence” was actually exchanged? In many cases, there were likely more presents than presence. Not because it was intentional. It is just getting harder. It’s getting harder because there is more “connectivity.” The last decade has completely transformed our ability to connect.

Yet there is a big difference between “connectivity” and being connected.

It is an issue of quantity versus quality. Connectivity does create the possibility of being connected, but is also creates the possibility of becoming disconnected. Too much of a good thing can create a bad thing. It can also create a bad habit.

Good habits are most easily formed as a reflection of knowing our core values. Bad habits are generally formed in the absence of knowing our values … or drifting from the values we know.

Bad habits, over time, lead to addiction. Addictions sometimes evolve from the misuse or the overuse of something good. Again, over time, they “normalize” our behaviors to become the same in all situations without discretion of whom we are with.

Addictions pull us away from what is better.

The problem doesn’t stop there. Our behavior also creates expectations in others. In other words, if we are constantly connected to our technology (cell phone, texts, email, social media, etc.) we train others to expect our immediate response. And if, for some reason, we don’t immediately respond we create another disconnect!

Let’s face it. Some of us have become addicted to the capabilities of technology without due consideration of the unintended consequences. You have probably been on the giving-end, as well as the receiving-end, of this lack of presence.

A friend’s mom has a basket sitting by her front door for when the whole family comes for dinner. Everyone knows to drop their cell phone in the basket on the way into the house. They all laugh about it … but they also oblige mom and I’m sure have a much richer experience together.

The namesake of this newsletter, The Front Porch, was selected with a lifestyle in mind of a place to sit and ponder the issues of business and life. Sometimes that pondering time on the “porch” needs to be alone and other times we need to share it with others. The key driver for when we are with others is precisely just that … to be “with” them.

Your presence is ultimately the most valuable gift you can give another.

To share time together with someone and not be “with” them is like gift-wrapping a present from a discount store in a Tiffany’s box. It’s just a bad idea! You can deceive the recipient with the box (even unintentionally), but in the end the real value is disclosed.

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that this is a generational issue. We tend to write-off many unintended evolving issues in that light. I would disagree. I would agree, for any generation, there are times where technology interruptions are totally appropriate and tend to make use of the great benefit technology brings to us. I would suggest, however, that the time has come that we raise the awareness of what is a benefit and what is a disrespectful bad habit … or even worse, a habit that dearly cost us in our relationships (consciously or subconsciously … directly or indirectly).

Beyond relationships, sometimes it has to do with our safety. Let’s dare to stare down the issue of texting and driving. Does anyone really think it’s a good idea since it allows us to respond more quickly? It’s not a good idea … it is a bad habit and potentially a deadly one at that!

My long-time business coach, Mark LeBlanc, recently posted some insightful wisdom on Facebook when he simply said, “I choose to be present rather than responsive.” Don’t be confused, Mark is incredibly responsive … but he also understands the valuable impact of being fully present. The truth be told … Mark is present rather than reactive.

Technology fuels your ability to be reactive and thereby can actually diminish your ability to be responsive.

I am by no means suggesting we abandon technological advancements. I use them and love them. I’m just suggesting we become increasingly aware of bad habits, call them for what they are and ultimately have the discipline to abandon them where disruptive. It is there we can finally give the advancements in technology the good name they deserve.

Focusing on being “present” may be the making of an incredible New Year’s resolution for all of us. It would be a gift deserving of any size Tiffany’s box in which you want to wrap it!