Look up briefly from this page at the people around you. What do you see? I bet you can see a number of people staring blankly, thumbs typing wildly or endlessly scrolling on their smartphones. Do you think they see the clouds in the sky above them, the first snowflakes falling around them or their friends trying to get their attention next to them?

Such a devoted fixation can only be applied to people and their smartphones. How many people do you see that are perfectly focused on a class lecture, conference call or even something as casual as a conversation over lunch with friends? Do people even make eye contact anymore? Watch students in class. They look out the window, at their friends, scroll through Facebook on their laptops, while simultaneously browsing Twitter and texting a friend. As employees sit in on a meeting or conference call, many are splitting their attention between emailing another client on their laptops and running through social media on their phones. Who’s listening to the person presenting? Anyone?

How many times do you go to lunch with your friends to ‘catch-up’ and yet you all sit there on your phones? Probably more times than you would like to admit. Even as your friend announces exciting news that they’ve landed that internship or have been accepted to study abroad, your reaction is delayed because half of your mind is immersed in the world of social media.

Let’s think about all the times you’ve been in an uncomfortable situation or are in a room full of people you don’t really know that well. Instead of taking the opportunity to make new friends and get to know the people around you, you pull out your phone to make yourself feel more comfortable. How disheartening is it that we need prefer to scroll mindlessly on our phones than interact with the people right in front of us?

Social media and technology in many ways have brought this world together and made physical distances between people and companies across oceans seem minuscule. But somehow, social media and smartphones have become a social crutch. People prefer the online world to the real one. They feel more comfortable engaging with others online than verbally. They have created unimaginable distances between the people no further than three feet from them. What is going to happen to our society when people just stop looking up from their phones all together? Social interaction is important and has its many benefits, but human interaction has benefits far greater.

Imagine how much more you could get out of lectures, business meetings and lunch dates with your friends if you looked up and let that unnecessary distance between those right in front of you slip away.