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By Bob Putnam

Self-imposed social isolation

There was a time when one would go to the local watering hole to socialize with a new acquaintance they would meet on the adjacent bar stool. With the advent of the smart phone and its ability and proclivity to provide and nurture constant connection with one's remote acquaintances, the notion of engaging a local character or a stereotypical sad sack nursing her Merlot has gone out the metaphorical high-tech window.

Look around the next time you are at a bar. Chances are, nine out of ten of your erstwhile compatriots have their mini-tablet, their iPhone 27, their awesome Android apparatus closer to them than their beverage of choice. Indeed, it is likely they will be picking up the phone more frequently than they will sip their libation.

What is the social phenomenon that prompts self-imposed social isolation? Clearly it is both the desire and the ability to maintain contact with all of life's connections, good or bad, whether one really wants to or not, that is enabled by the wonder of modern communication. Is this a good thing?

Is it too retro or too sentimental to lament the day when one's attention was fully engaged by immediate surroundings and not preoccupied with either the current smart phone message or the dreaded next one? I think not.

The next time you venture out to socialize, present yourself with this challenge: Leave your smart phone at home. Believe it or not, it will be okay. If that most recent two-million-dollar deal is truly as good as you know it is, it will not vaporize because you went out to enjoy a beer in the company of your peers. In fact, if you don't respond instantaneously you could actually prompt an anxious reaction on the part of your already-engaged client, who will leave several plaintive messages pleading for your attention.

When you return to your device and choose to respond, your prospect will have already salivated in a Pavlovian style and your deal will surely be sealed.

If, on the other hand, your seemingly supremely important communications are of a more personal nature, certainly the same principles will apply. There was a time when a romantic missive might take as long as several months to reach its intended recipient.

The authors of the United States of America's Declaration of Independence were extraordinarily talented with semantics, syntax, and penmanship. Equally true, though they did not operate with a smart phone they certainly expressed similar sentiments, though the delivery took much longer. Witness the following advice from none other than the renowned Benjamin Franklin to a wayward student:

My dear Friend,

I know of no Medicine fit to diminish the violent natural Inclinations you mention; and if I did, I think I should not communicate it to you. Marriage is the proper Remedy.

To paraphrase for the modern world, had that been a smart phone text message it may have read "Dude, get out while the getting is still good."

The long and short of it is, strive to maintain actual immediate communication with those who surround you rather than the chimera of remote connection.

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