A few weeks ago, my husband and I were sitting in the lobby of Johnny Carinos waiting for a table. It was a little date night we had planned that was long overdue. While waiting to be seated, we found ourselves surrounded by at least thirty other people who were also in the holding pin for a table.
After a few minutes of chatting, it dawned on us that EVERY person sitting around us in the restaurant’s front foyer was engrossed in an activity on a smart phone of sorts or a personal media device. Kids listened to their music with earphones on, husbands and wives were playing Angry Birds and Unblock Me, and others were feverishly texting.
No one was talking to each other in those few minutes except Gary and me. No one really looked up and made eye contact with friends or strangers. And once we realized what was happening around us, that is the topic that consumed us until we were seated!
What amazed me was that a few precious moments when friends and families could be talking and laughing with each other, their connection to technology was the actual cause of being disconnected from one another. It’s as if our culture is often allowing a pseudo-bond with hand held technology to replace the bonds of breath-filled, tactile human relationships.
For full disclosure, I own an iPhone and can easily get caught up in texting, checking emails and scanning Facebook updates. I’m not much of a gamer, except my guilty pleasure is Words with Friends – and that game can get me to stop just about anything I’m doing to play the next word! However, I’ve realized that sometimes the iPhone is controlling me rather than me controlling it. It is a marvelous tool for organizing and enjoying life, but I’m still having gut checks when tempted to give the machine more attention than the person standing in front of me.
Now my daughter is the proud owner of an iPod Touch that she saved up the money to buy. And I definitely know I have some progress to make in this area of media boundaries. So, that little dinner outing was a wake-up call for our family to be more intentional about keeping technology in it’s rightful place in our lives. Some of the relational vs. technology values we are trying to hold onto are:
- Talking is better than texting: when eating out, during our family activities, when gathering with friends and extended family, when the conversation needs facial expressions and interaction
- More games with boards and tangible pieces, less games with a screen.
- Walks, runs and park fun should come first.
- Age appropriate filters and boundaries are essential.
- Model how we want our kids to use and interact with technology.
- There is a time to just turn the media gadgets off.
This certainly isn’t the exhaustive list. I’m sure I’ll have more to add at some point. It is just a starting place for making sure that while I have greater and greater access to a digital world, I don’t loose the intimacy and wonder of the human relationship sitting right next to me at the kitchen counter.