I just returned from dinner. Despite the darkness and cold outside, the combination of a candle’s soft glow, glasses of Montepulciano wine, Saltimbocca and good company kept me warm. Stylish couples and families talked about their day over various courses. That wonderful blend of friends, family, conversation, romance, wine and Sicilian cuisine was not without an unwelcome element: the smart phone screen.

I looked around and saw the obtrusive white light of numerous smart phones lighting up the faces of patrons at several tables. The inviting glow of candles was helpless against the intensity of this artificial glare. How sad, I thought. Eyes darted up and down, from the person on the other side of the table to that demanding light in the palms of hands. The expression on the other person’s face, the one not on the phone, was interesting. They usually stared off into the distance or into their glass, swilling the wine a bit, as though they’re by themselves, waiting for their companion to re-engage the present. Sometimes, they would take out their phones and, there they’d sit, immersed in their own smart phone comfort zone.

People have trouble being fully present with the person in front of them, without letting an obtrusive text, tweet, a call or an email getting in the way. We’re told that smart phones and social media have brought us closer together. Have they really? I don’t think that’s true, as more people extract themselves from the present and withdrawing into a world of harsh lights.