Jeremy Côté

Teleport With Intention

I’m on the phone with my grandfather, but I’m also in a battle against my own mind. My laptop screen is on my left and my smartphone is on my right, both appealing to check. I can feel my resolve crumbling. My fingers drum on the desk, and I have to physically turn away from the screens in front of me.

“Say that again, Grandpa?” I ask, having missed the last bit of the conversation.

This happens more often than I’d like to admit. Instead of giving him my full attention for twenty minutes, I fracture my focus: Part of it is on our conversation, while another part is on a screen.

Knowing that I could just wait until after our conversation brings no relief. I still feel the urge to fill in this time with something else. And without fail, I’m disappointed in myself after each time I succumb to the urge.

I want to have a conversation with him where I’m not also checking my email or reading a newsletter. I want to give him the magical gift of conversation, not this crude imitation of one where I’m barely there.

I think about this a lot. I’ll be able to check my email and read newsletters forever. I won’t be able to speak with my grandfather forever. Each time I give into my desire to be on a screen while speaking with him, I degrade the quality of one of a dwindling number of remaining conversations.

This feeling happens more than just in conversations with my grandfather. I notice it when I’m stuck at work, when I’m trying to focus on a book, or when I have a moment of silence from the barrage of information I encounter each day. I notice it when I’m in virtual meetings or online calls with my friends. I notice it as I’m writing this essay.

In short, I feel the urge to teleport.

I heard this term from Craig Mod1, who wrote about it in the context of smartphones, which facilitate teleportation. I’d summarize Craig’s position as: Teleport intentionally.

Don’t remove yourself from the present moment just because it’s uncomfortable.

Don’t inject extra novelty or stimulus into your day just because you’re bored.

Don’t disengage from conversations by letting your mind wander away from your present.

To be clear, teleporting can be useful! It’s a tool that allows us to daydream, to imagine the future and be creative.

But I don’t want to teleport unintentionally. I want to keep my focus directed in the present, not scattered on the winds of my whims. I don’t want to teleport away from my conversations, and I don’t want to give into the urge to fracture my attention just because I’m in a difficult moment.

The present moment is where I work2, where I connect with others, and where I live. Each time I teleport without intention, I degrade the quality of my present.

So when I’m on call with a friend or my grandfather and feel the urge to open up a new browser tab, I tell myself:

Don’t teleport.

  1. As Craig mentions in his Ridgeline essay, he wrote another longer one about being bored during his walks across Japan

  2. This is part of the reason why I never run with music.