There is no escaping technology. We are living in a world where screens of all sorts are in front of us nearly constantly. Many of us spend of our work days in front of a computer. We carry Smart Phones in our pockets, Tablets in our hands, and at home we have Laptops and TVs clamoring for attention.
There are certainly days when I want to run screaming from this constant stream of “being on”…. And I do escape – on a bike ride, to walk the dog, do some gardening, or settle down to read a book. (The real paper kind, not the Kindle kind). For our children, screen time seems even more alluring. There is a whole generation growing up as the “3 screen generation” – meaning they have a minimum of 3 forms of technology in front of them at all times, often being viewed/accessed simultaneously.
Honestly, I believe screen time to be a form of addiction for many of our kids. Every few months we have to have a discussion with our son because he has slipped back into being “sucked in”, where he is spending literally hours either in front of his computer playing games, watching videos on his iPad or playing his home gaming system. After our discussions, he realizes he’s been too absorbed and actually feels guilty – like he hasn’t even realized how bad he’s been with it. He takes corrective measures and all is better – for a while. It actually seems like children’s imaginations have not disappeared, but have been altered. Instead of making up games to play outside, they can carry on extensive theories and ideas about alternative universes and characters. They seem to have lost much of the ability to find “hobbies” that don’t involve technology, and need to be taught how to have non-screen fun. Their worlds seem to exist for screens and sports…not much else.
And of course I could fill pages of blog space discussing Social Media and the effects that phenomena has had on our culture. But I won’t do that, as there are a gazillion others already analyzing it. I will mention one related term, however, that now is often met with disdain: Texting. Immediately images of teens hanging out with each other and texting rather than talking leap to mind; or the evils of cyber-bulling fill us with fear — or worse yet, the horrifying consequences of Texting and Driving. Yes, the world has changed, and one could start to believe in some ways not for the better.
And yet – (you knew I’d have a “yet”…) — Without this world of screens, I wouldn’t have such an easy outlet for sharing my writing in the world of blogs. I’d be less efficient at work – for example, I would still be creating marketing plans with a typewriter and gobs of correction tape. I’d be spending far more time, and gas, shopping for birthdays and holidays…. Rather than taking care of half my son’s wish list in 15 minutes by reaching out to my friends at Amazon.
I was a fairly late Smart Phone Bloomer. I didn’t think I needed one…after all, I had a Laptop. Then I took the plunge, and it was love at first click. To literally have access to the world in the palm of your hand is heady stuff. And texting? Oh yes, I’ve grown to love it. And here’s why…. A text from another Real Woman BFF in the morning about our issues in figuring out to wear, or commiserating over feeling dowdy, can give me the laugh I need to start my day. Sending my husband a photo of our dog waiting patiently for him to come home can possibly give him a smile at the end of a long day. Even better is when I’ll get an unexpected text from a nephew who lives 4 hours away just because he happened to be thinking about his aunt and wanted to share something funny, or my Stepson in Florida will Face Time us to show us how his toddler son is starting to walk….it doesn’t get much better than that.
Just a few minutes ago, my son was playing a new song for me that his guitar teacher assigned to him tonight. He is unfamiliar with the song, so after he did his best to sight read it, I went to my laptop and in 30 seconds, the Everly Brothers were singing “All I Have to Do Is Dream” for us both. Pretty amazing.
A curse? Sometimes. A blessing? Perhaps. As with all things that absorb us and take our attention, the key lies in moderation. As long as every now and then, we pick up a pen and paper and send someone a real letter, or get together in person to talk, laugh and connect, and we get out to breathe fresh air and exercise away from screens, I think we’ll be ok.
The other morning I was driving to work after 3 days of rain. The bad weather had pushed out and left behind one of those rare bright crystal clear days where the air is impossibly fresh and clean and all of the colors around us were vibrant… and I thought “this is a high-definition kind of day”. The best kind to have. As long as we still recognize and appreciate that, then we can rest easy knowing that screens will never completely replace the blessings of reality.