• Patrick McAndrew

The Role of Self-Awareness in the Digital Age

I am very interested in the correlation between our tech habits and our own self-awareness.  Self-awareness is an incredibly amazing and intricate personality trait.  I am awed at how self-aware some people are.  I love it!  When I meet someone who is very self-aware, it teaches me to look at my own life more carefully and be more conscious of how I live my life.

Then I meet some people who are not self-aware at all.  They have no idea how their decisions or actions are affecting their lives, sometimes for better, but often for worse.  They do not seem to have any idea of the effect they are having on other people.  When I observe these people, I realize that perhaps I’m not suffering too poorly in the self-awareness department.

Of course, the large majority of us are somewhere in between these two extremes.  We have our moments of introspection and deep reflection and then those moments where we have no idea of the manner in which we are coming off.  Life isn’t perfect and such a large percentage of that nonperfect life is figuring out that balance and always striving to become more self-aware.

Let’s throw technology into the picture; now it’s a whole different ball game.  Because technology often distracts us, takes away our attention, and occupies our time, we don’t seem to leave much room to become self-aware.  So many of us grab our phones within the first ring or vibrate, that we usually don’t stop and think about the impact that that reaction is having on the people surrounding us.  Even just as importantly, and perhaps more so, we don’t stop and think about the impact that it has on us as individuals.

It’s no secret that our smartphones often take us out of our surroundings.  Many of us cross the street while texting, text while driving, or scroll through Facebook while at the dinner table.  One cannot argue that, at the same time, you are also aware of your surroundings.  While multi-tasking is touted as an essential skillset, it is nearly impossible. How do I know that we can’t listen to conversations while on our phones?  Because I’m guilty of it! It’s just not possible.

I think that informing the general public that they need to be more aware of their surroundings isn’t the difficult part.  Texting while driving is illegal in many states and we are often told to “pay attention” or “turn off your phone.”  The difficult part is making people more aware of themselves.

Many parents are concerned about how often their kids or teenagers use their phones.  While this is a viable concern, most don’t look at their own behavior.  Several of the parents are on their phones just as often!  No one is perfect.  We all know where we need to improve.  Self-awareness is an essential component of this.  Without self-awareness, we cannot progress responsibly in the world as technology continues to progress.

We can always strive for deeper and more effective self-awareness.  Whether that be through meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, exercise, or any other activity you do, it’s important to practice whatever it is on a regular basis.  Lao Tzu has a great quote.  It goes, “He who knows others is wise.  He who knows himself is enlightened.”  Touché, Lao Tzu.  Touché.

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