Thursday, January 6, 2011

Put down the smartphone, you jackass

This past weekend, I was driving home. I saw this guy, about my age, pushing his daughter along on a shiny new 2 wheeler, while she wobbled back and forth on her training wheels. Her helmet was cockeyed, and she listed to the left, all while she was pedaling away with the energy and enthusiasm of a girl feeling the wind in her face for the very first time. Mouth wide open with a face of such boundless joy, she was a joy herself just to watch.

And her father, as he clung to the back of her seat, trying to keep her on the sidewalk, was talking into a cellphone. He was completely disconnected from this moment in time. Instead of enjoying it, and participating in it and maybe even taking a photo or something, he was yammering away with a serious face, clearly not involved in the once-in-a-lifetime moment for his child that was unfolding right before him.

She was oblivious, cackling with glee, head thrown back and streamers flying.

And I saw myself.

Not the little girl with the distracted father.

The parent who spends more time on my Blackberry than with my kids.

Oh, that's not strictly true, but it feels that way. I have gone in just 2 years from an old school cellphone that dangled from one half of a hinge, with a screen that was completely blank more often then not, that did not have texting or email or even a functioning speakerphone, to a shiny pink blackberry upon which I am completely dependent. And totally "connected".

Connected to the whole wide world......but not to my life.

And if I am not mesmerized by my email/facebook/twitter feed/texts/voicemail/NY Times, it is only because I am driving somewhere, or using my laptop. Usually I am staring at a screen, and giving vague answers to my kids questions while I frantically tap and scroll away.

When I saw that guy - when I was on the outside looking in and observing myself like some sort of twisted modern day stiletto-wearing version of Ebeneezer Scrooge - I felt ill.


It's not just me and that guy on the sidewalk - a few weeks ago two of my friends appeared to have a conversation on facebook while one hid in the men's room lamenting the singles scene, and the other was waiting for him at the bar.

I see parents every day taking a photo - and then spending half an hour trying to send it and post it and link it and tag it - while their kid wanders off alone, the photo session clearly over.

And on New Years Eve, as I went from table to table refilling champagne glasses, I frequently had to wait for someone to finish a call or text or tweet or status update before I could ask them if they would, in fact, like more to drink here in the real world, rather than the virtual one they appeared to be inhabiting. Peope were texting other guests at the same party, instead of going up and giving them a hug in person.
It was depressing. And in a sort of New Year's Resolution (though I am loathe to label it that, as I rarely make them and certainly never see them through) I decided I needed to make more of an effort to use technology the way it was intended - to supplement my life, not document every waking moment of it.

On Tuesday, Sam and I went out on a date. My Blackberry did not join us.
Wednesday night we went out for a family dinner. Blackberry waited in the car.

Blackberry, it's not you, it's me. I love you too much.
We're officially on a break. We can still hang out, we're just not going to be exclusive anymore.
I'm sure you understand.

1 comment:

J.L. Campbell said...

Your post made me think. While I'm not attached to my phone, I do spend too much time at the computer and not enough time talking eye to eye with my child. While the pc is a tool I use for my work, spending more time away from it will do more good than harm.