Photo cred: TVWriter.com

Foreward: I’m sorry if this post’s tone sounds mean, but this really is a problem that needs to be talked about bluntly.

So as an account executive it’s my job to be social, like going to events, conferences, anything to represent. Right? It’s literally the easiest part of my job. I love it and meeting new, powerful and energizing people is always a highlight of my day. A few weeks back I had the privilege of going to the ON Brand conference in Omaha and got to meet some of the most impressive professionals in the design field. It’s was amazing and you know what other amazing things I got to see? I also had the privilege of watching a bunch of people scroll through Facebook for 5 hours.

People were on their phones scrolling through social media during every single lecture.

Not just during the breakouts, but even during the keynote speakers’ lectures, who are genuinely sought after leaders of the industry. People were just scrollin’. Not addressing important texts, not answering work emails, nothing like that. When I looked over at them they were actually just going through their social media as if it were more important than the knowledge that they, or their company, paid to learn at the conference.

Now I’m not one of those anti-phone people prophesying the doom of all human interaction because we’d prefer to catch up on the fake news instead conversing with a stranger in the Starbucks line. Being social is exhausting sometimes and frankly, there’s more of a chance of running into a creeper than to make a connection, so why take that risk when I could just text a friend about getting drinks? Phones are great. During the conference transitions, you bet I was cackling at all the cattiness in my best friend’s bridal group chat because Lord knows I love drama.

How. Freaking. Ever.

It doesn’t take a lick more of common decency to know that even if a professional lecturer is boring you to tears, at least pretend that you’re paying attention. Like, really try if you have to. It’s not socializing, it’s not avoiding the stranger sitting next to you, it’s not even getting ahead writing a blog post for your company — it’s Instagram, and it can wait. I have no shame in the fact that I watched this chick creep DEEP into some guy’s Insta and like every pic that wasn’t of him and another girl. She was causin’ drama. And it could have waited, sweetie. He isn’t gonna leave her just because you’re obviously thirsting.

All these people weren’t even the “typical mid-twenties millennials” either. There was a guy, mid-thirties, buying some sort of spinning wheel like the chore wheel Pam made for the Office. Dude. Come on. The lecturer might be boring as poorly crafted sourdough bread but he’s got 25 years of experience. He’s giving us some great insights to our career field which, no bets or anything, I’m guessing you could use because you’re wasting the day that you bought for $125 to look at a spinny chore wheel. I’ll admit, during that lecture, my mind went elsewhere a couple of times, but I always kept my eyes upfront and then brought it back as soon as I realized what I was doing. Because it’s the nice thing to do. Public speaking is hard. Be that MVP that gives an encouraging smile to a struggling speaker.

Also, what’s more important, I paid to be here.

Not being present is wasting my own time, and the productivity of the day is up to my own effort. Write that down, kids — it applies in college too. It took me way too long to not do the whole phone out while the teacher is talking thing. It’s honestly hard to always be actively thinking, “No, they might be talking to 60 other people, but I’m still one of them” and set aside my memes. We’re all way too busy in high school and college, and sometimes it’s seductively easy to try multi-tasking to save your own time. Sometimes teachers and professors don’t even care either. Even if you’re wasting your own time they’re getting your money whether you succeed or fail. If you can manage to multitask and still pass the class, what’s the big deal?

This perspective doesn’t apply to the incredibly busy professionals who volunteer their time to give their knowledge to us.

These people could do a hundred other things in their day, probably enjoy them way more AND get paid for it, but they’re choosing to gift you their knowledge. A teacher or professor is at least getting paid to put up with your disrespect, but someone who is volunteering to lecture is just being disrespected.

When a guest professional is speaking, there is nothing more important than listening to them and finding what you can apply to your own success story. If you don’t care about just being a decent person and making someone feel valued, then at least be selfish and do something productive for your career. Bruh.