Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Life Unplugged

While we often talk about how much technology has sped up our already fast-paced lives, I believe technology has become a barrier to us experiencing life. As we walk along the beach, our heads are often down as we peer into the screen of an iPhone. When we update our Facebook statuses, we’re missing the waves crashing on the shore. At concerts we are so busy holding our iPads above our heads to capture a video that we actually aren’t listening to the band we came to hear.

And so I have consciously made the choice to live a semi-unplugged existence. I intentionally make phone calls to connect with others. To catch up with friends I make dinner plans. I use Facebook to view pictures and stay connected with out of town relatives but only post about once a week – if that. I use email at work but rarely for my personal communications. I use my iPhone as a camera to capture important moments. My goal is simple: I want to use technology to make my life easier, but I don’t want technology to take over my life. And yet, as it often happens with things for me, even as I profess my beliefs I come face-to-face with a situation that causes me to question my strong convictions.

A few weeks ago I made a quick jaunt to Cleveland to watch my two nephews play football. As I was packing up to head back home, my youngest nephew voiced his disappointment that I was leaving prior to watching the Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game that was to air that evening. Laden with guilt about disappointing him, I almost changed plans and stayed put, but I couldn’t. So home I went. Later that evening when out with friends watching the game, I decided to text my nephew to get his opinion on a controversial call made by a referee. Much to my delight he responded quickly and voiced a similar opinion to my own. The bantering back and forth continued throughout the game. Cheering together on first downs and touchdowns and ranting together when our team fell short. In the end we celebrated with a text that contained the words of the Michigan fight song when our team was victorious. And I must admit, though I was clearly not 100 percent present in the moment with my friends who were watching the game with me, I was very present and connected with my nephew who was 250 miles away!

And what is even more exciting to me is that the connection continues. The very next day while watching the Bengals football game, he texted me again. And I was delighted! This has now become something do. When we can’t be together to watch the games, we will reach out and share a moment through text messages.

Does this mean I am rethinking my strong convictions about living semi-unplugged?  To outsiders it may look that way, but I am still going to work hard to make conscious choices about technology. Making these kinds of decisions are a challenge unique to the current generation of parents. We really need to think about the “life” choices we make, the behaviors we’re modeling for our children that will help them understand what is important. I will still contend that slowing down and being present in the moment is of greater value than living a fast-paced life where immediacy is highly valued. But this is just where I stand on technology – where do you stand?

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