What If We Still Used Away Messages?
My husband used the phrase “out of pocket” the other day, and it stopped me in my tracks. Out of pocket? What did that mean?
He told me that it meant when someone at the office was out for whatever reason, but they weren’t going to be checking emails, answering calls, or doing many things that occur when one works from home.
Out of pocket.
It made me smile, and then I realized that it did so because it reminded me of away messages. Those little alerts that we wrote upon our screens once upon a time, when AOL and AIM were the only children of our digital universe.
Maybe you’d say, “brb,” or maybe you’d write down an ambiguous quote from your favorite song to hint at your mood, or perhaps you’d be more specific about whatever it is that you were doing: studying all night. Going for a run. Soccer game. Gym time. Girls night. Date night. Beach dayzzz. Workin’ that 9 to 5.
Whatever it was — you wrote it on the little box of your computer, perhaps gave it a snazzy font and color, and left it to go about whatever it is what you were doing away from your screen.
Yes, you left it there.
You didn’t check it every hour or so, and you didn’t get an alert or a buzz that someone had indeed left you a message — you had to wait until you got back to your computer to read them if there were any at all.
You were, in fact, away.
You were having conversations without recording them and enjoying a meal without taking a picture of it. You were going to the gym without inviting everyone you know to your workout, or on your girls’ night out, or the intimate moments of your date.
Can you imagine if we left away messages today? If we told the ones who feel as though they are invited into our homes via our screens that we will be right back, but we’re going to take some time alone with our kids? Or our spouse? Or better yet, ourselves?
What would that world look like?
Maybe we’d engage more with our families and friends and the communities that we are a part of — not by liking or sharing or loving their posts, but by showing up at their front door, and in their mailbox, and perhaps even an old fashioned phone call, too. We’d know them, more — not by the pictures or words they post on a screen, but by the way their eyes sparkle with delight when they hear a certain song, and how chocolate cake makes them smile like a kid on Christmas morning, and how the lilt in their voice that tells you that they are not ok, even before they have the courage to say it.
Maybe we’d focus more on creating and less on critiquing. Perhaps we’d put the time in to write that story, or novel, or screenplay. Maybe we’d put paint to paper, or take out our camera, or start actually building that business that’s been dancing around in our dreams instead of just talking about it. Maybe we’d apply for that job or position instead of complaining about those who currently inhabit it.
Maybe we’d let some things remain sacred, and tender, and untouched by the opinions and thoughts of strangers who think they know us, yet have never sat at our table.
Perhaps if we were to put an away message up, we’d focus more on living — and less on what was buzzing in our pocket.