With the start of a new year, I have decided to make an effort to 'put it down' more often so I can be ever-present for the people in my life I care about most: my family. I am referring to the average Amerian's endless stream of gadgets: the smart phone, ipad, itouch, ipod, laptop, etc. Although these gadgets successfully allow us to connect more frequently and efficiently with the 'outside world', I fear our 'inside worlds' are bearing the costs.
Of course, I enjoy my gadgets as much as the next gadget-er. I love reconnecting with old friends from past schools, distant cities, or previous lives as well as new ones. It is certainly fun to keep in touch through the sending and receiving of birthday messages, the sharing and commenting on family photos of our "fellow-mom-and-newborn-playdate" friends from prior cities, and sharing links to relevant articles, blogs, etc., with current neighbors and friends. My son, Jack, and I had so much fun Skyping with his best friend from school who recently moved to Switzerland with his family. This would not even be feasible prior to such genius technology. Similarly, I relish the convenience of reading NYTimes.com articles on my ipad while waiting in the carpool line, to pick up my children from school. The fact that I can do these things and MORE from my Blackberry, plus texting, (yes, I have YET to convert to the iconic iphone)....is all the more convenient, efficient and entertaining in terms of connecting with others, collecting info (my favorite, being an information junkie) and communicating with again, the "outside world".
However, I am beginning to feel a tension rising between my constant magnetic pull to these devices and the constant need for attention, love, company, and "being present" by my loved ones, my "inside world". My husband I are constantly harassing one another for being attached to our Blackberries...so we have recently made a pact to "put it down" more often, particularly in the presence of one another. As much as these devices are essential for bare necessity communications (i.e. a "your-kid-is-sick" call from school, last-minute carpool changes, meeting times/places with your spouse, etc.), I am finding the majority of time spent on these gadgets simply distract me from more important, soul-enriching activities. In addition to my focus and attention to my family, I found that by "putting it down" more often, I could spend time on more relaxing activities. For example, I gave up bringing the Blackberry to bed for Lent last year. I am such an information-addict, that I used to lay in bed reading every story I could find from various news outlets. Once I gave this up, I discovered that novel reading is far more sleep-conducive than flipping through random current event articles (many of which are anxiety-producing, I might add).
I have concluded these gadgets are to adults as the TV/video games are to our children. Their cost/benefit ratio is becoming top-heavy. Of course our children are entranced by the lights-camera-action of the large plasma screen...but is it becoming too frequent to the point where the basic reading, writing, creative/analytical thinking, problem-solving, activities REQUIRED for their essential education cannot compete with such stimulation? For this reason, we try to limit screen time for our children - but of course this is challenging, as any parent can attest. Similarly, these gadgets for adults provide greater connectivity, efficient communication, entertainment, but are they providing so much escape and 'stimulus' that they interfere with our connections with our spouses, children, and prevent more soul-enriching activities such as reading, writing, painting, creative-anything, or just plain meditating? I cannot imagine a Buddhist monastery where they encourage followers to just focus on their ipads.....how absurd!? But we all know Buddhism conjures images of mindfulness, meditation, wisdom, and peacefulness. Are these concepts at odds with our gadgets?
On a larger scale, I fear that our society at large will begin to suffer from less-connected marriages, families, communities, if we fail to monitor and moderate the time spent with our beloved, but too-often-soul-zapping-gadgets.
Of course, I am not proposing a complete gadget-elimination. I am simply declaring that I, personally, would like to limit their use to fewer-and-far-between moments throughout my day. I recently started blogging as a way to document all things creative in my life. I am happy to say that at least this creative activity is NOT done from any of the aforementioned gadgets!!
In light of this topic, I wanted to attach a recent NYT article I enjoyed by Pico Iyer, titled "The Joy of Quiet." Please click below to read the full article.