At the movie theater, you have been forewarned: should your phone go off, fellow audience members (otherwise known as strangers) are entitled to groan and shoosh at you. We’ve all been there, and hopefully we’ve learned our lesson. (I’ve learned it a few times – oops!)

This common courtesy that we extend to a faceless crowd, however, is often forgotten in real life with the people we respect, love and trust most. Instead of engaging with the human beings in front of us we engage with our phones: texting, checking email, updating statuses, sharing pictures. The beauty of the smartphone stems from its ability to connect us with the world, but one ugly byproduct is its tendency to isolate us from the moment. Maybe some of us understand all too well the tweet of Family Guy writer Alec Sulkin (@thesulk), “Has anything happened since 2008? I’ve been looking down at my phone.”

Since we don’t have theater reminders to conk us over the head throughout the day, for now we can just practice reclaiming the moment with these questions:

Where am I? Look up for a second, away from the glowing light of your phone. Glance around. If you see trees, hear birds, or feel sunshine, you are most likely in nature. This is a good time to put down your phone. Limit your desire to instagram and check-in at every juncture–maybe even let go of the compulsion for an entire day.

What am I doing? This is an easy one, you’re looking at your phone. Now put it down and look up again. If you find yourself with a seatbelt strapped across your chest and a steering wheel between your hands, this means you should be “driving.” I know it sounds crazy, but give it a try.

Who am I with? This is the most important one. Try to remember their name (if you can’t, just quickly visit their Facebook page to refresh your memory). Do you refer to this person as your “mom,” “best friend,” or “boss“? If they are talking to you, take note that you might be engaged in what’s referred to as a real-time conversation… and most people would agree that it deserves more attention than the silver screen.

Okay, enough of my snarkiness. Who am I to judge? I’m just as guilty as the next gal or guy. But the silliness of these questions arises from their obviousness and our continual failure to notice what we’re not doing when we’re on our phones.

Are we losing something in real life by spending so much of it peering into a virtual one? Online and in text, we edit, crop and present ourselves carefully, even artfully. We are allowed to be the type of person we want the world to know. Who doesn’t enjoy the compliments that come with presenting a more-perfect version of ourselves?

But there is magic, too, in the moment. Only there can we experience authenticity and spontaneity. Only there can we actually be poked and poke back. Only there can we truly laugh out loud. All we have to do is just put down our phones. Live in the moment.

Photo Courtesy of Geek Sugar.