I have a love hate relationship with technology.
What’s not to love about the power we wield in the palm of our hands nowadays? Check out this picture:
It is a still frame from a really cool video I took with my iPhone (full disclosure: I shanked it out of bounds). Few, my mom excluded, miss the days of almanacs and wild goose chases courtesy of ill-informed gas station attendants. The amount of planning it once took to go on long road trips or even momentarily part ways in public would certainly confound children of the technology era.
Those of us with depression-aged grandparents likely heard the disdain laced commentaries on the increasing comfortability modern life provides. The typical, eye-roll inducing refrain usually went something like this:
“We walked twelve miles to school each day. In the snow. In the rain. Giant balls of hail smashed down on our heads. We walked on broken glass roads. Barefoot. And by golly, we liked it!”
I feel a tinge of irony every time I tell my kids to put the phone down. On more than one occasion I’ve caught myself admonishing them with mini-lectures eerily reminiscent, if not infinitely wimpier, to those of my grandparents.
“We used to play outside. In the grass. There was no Word Chums. No cable TV. And by golly, we liked it!”
Let’s be honest. We liked it because we didn’t know how awesome the iPhone was. Ignorance is bliss.
But there’s a darker side to all the wonders of technology. I’m not the first to point it out, nor the last. The call of the screen is powerful, beckoning like Tolkien’s One Ring, and often the call is irresistible. The number of times I’ve pointlessly cycled through Facebook and Twitter, mere moments after doing the exact same thing is embarrassing to say the least. I’m like the digital version of a chain smoker. Pookie from New Jack City. It calls out to me, and pathetically, I answer.
Again, just to clarify, I’m not knocking technology. I love it. But like anything, there’s excess.
My confession today is this: My name is Dan, and I’m a techoholic.
Functional. I’m not one of those junkies relentlessly sending Candy Crush invites on Facebook – that person needs serious and immediate intervention. But all the warning signs are there – phone always within arms reach. Can’t go five minutes without checking, even if I know nothing important is on the way.
It’s subtle abuse, but damaging nonetheless. I’ve noticed the side effects of this habit ripple throughout our family, particularly with my kids. I am sending the message that daddy values the device more than me. Sometimes I think that’s why they ask for the phone so much – precisely because I am holding it all the time.
It hit me like a ton of bricks this week. See, I did something different. When I got home from work, instead of habitually checking the phone, I put down all my stuff and went into the backyard to play some golf with the kids.
Earlier in the week, the bedtime routine had been an unmitigated disaster. For background, my children are 11, 7, 5, 1. Three boys, one girl. Often, as was the case this week, trying to get them to bed is like trying to herd thousands of cats. If you don’t have kids or don’t have a lot of them, I defer to Jim Gaffigan, who explains it better (and funnier) than anyone I’ve ever seen before.
We golfed in the backyard for all of 20 minutes. For that brief moment in time, the kids had 100% of their daddy. No phone, no interruptions, no divided attention, no need to act out in order to get me to notice. We were just having a good time together, celebrating soaring shots and ribbing the wild shanks.
That night, something amazing happened. As I braced for the usual bedtime shenanigans, I started noticing a drastic change. Kids weren’t darting through hallways or conducting death-defying bed to bed jumps. When I asked them to get cleaned up, “yes sir” reappeared and “no!” was nowhere to be found.
As I tucked them peacefully into bed, there were no constant ploys for attention. No endless requests for more water or another book as I quietly slinked out of the room. There was an inner peace evident in their faces, especially of my boys, that wasn’t there in the prior (busier) days.
Technology is awesome.
No one wants to go back to the days of almanacs and broken glass roads. But it’s always good to stop and take an honest, close look at how we are using it.
Our spouses, kids, loved ones all desire and deserve our attention. The good news is, we’re just a few duck hooks and cries of ‘fore!’ away from giving them all they need.