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I Hear You, Mr. Knox

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Jamie Swenson
October 24, 2011

Steve Knox has hit on a topic in his blog that is near and dear to my heart as of late … technology and our constant need to be connected.

Steve is trying to take one day off a week from technology … that might be too hard for most of us … but what a great idea.

Here’s my wish: that we would all take a few hours off every single day (myself included) to simply focus on each other and be truly present in each other’s lives. Not just bodies sitting next to each other with our brains tuned in elsewhere due to the technology at our fingertips.

I wish we would all step back and see what our amazing ability to be connected is doing to us as a society - and how it is affecting our relationships and our parenting skills (myself included).

And it is affecting our parenting skills. No doubt about that. I don’t want to be all Doom and Gloom about it, because I use technology daily too …

But with the good … there is so much bad.

What I hate is the constant connectedness I see, especially in public. Particularly when it means that people are not in the moment. I know you see this too - people using technology/texting/talking on the phone while:

Riding bikes (really?)

Tweeting while at a movie

Updating FB status hourly (really?)

Texting while running on the bike trail

While driving

When people are tuned out due to all sorts of technology, cell phones, videogames etc… they are missing out on life.

Man, John Lennon, how right you were when you said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” More accurately, however, would be, “Life is what happens while you’re busy texting.”

I mean seriously … I know you see this:

People tuned out while out to dinner with other people, texting while shopping, walking pets, sitting at the park, at the beach, at the library … you name it … people are only half listening … or less. People talking to me at the service desk WHILE talking on their cell phones! I hate that!

But,the worst one I’ve seen lately? A kid at church - DURING CHURCH - playing on a DS. His grandmother sort of half asked him to put it away once or twice. He didn’t. She didn’t force the issue. I demonstrated amazing restraint by not grabbing the DS and throwing it out of the building. Everyone parents differently. I get that.

But are we really that powerless to do anything about it?

I see the lack of interpersonal interaction caused by technology every single day. If you are busy on line/texting, you are not interacting with your family/children who are presently with you. Don’t fool yourself -- you’re not.

And our kids are suffering for it - especially the little folks who are no longer the focus of their parents’ attention - even in public - even at the library. They’re growing up understanding that their needs come in line right AFTER this text message, phone conversation, Tweet, FB … you get the picture.

Your kids need to talk with you - it’s how they learn. And it’s not just the words that they need to hear … the interaction is the key … eye contact, facial expression, and talking back and forth (conversation) … that’s why DVDs / technology can never fully replace human interaction … and many kids are missing out on this due to technology.

A few years back, I stood behind a man in the line for Santa (this was before texting was popular). The man never once spoke to his child (not once!) who was excited and hopping around the line. The man did, however, speak to numerous friends on his phone. “Yeah. We’re waiting for Santa. Yeah. The line is long. No, I don’t know what Joe was thinking when he … “ What did that man miss by not talking to his little girl as they waited together to see Santa? … guess he’ll never know. What his daughter certainly learned was that Daddy is more interested in talking on the phone … even in public … than paying any attention to her. Took every ounce of restraint to not say something to the man … after all … that’s his parenting style. Not mine.

Still, the Santa thing has stuck with me all these years. Nearly broke my heart at the time, but it was a huge lesson for me as a parent. Cell phones are good and cell phones are really, really bad.

So, Steve, I hope you do take some time off from your mobile phone, FB, computer - whatever it is that is keeping you from living in the moment and really seeing the people around you and experiencing the RIGHT NOW.

Tolstoy raised these questions long before anyone had ever heard of a cell phone:

• What is the best time to do each thing?

• Who are the most important people to work with?

• What is the most important thing to do at all times?

If you don’t already know the answers - here they are:

• The most important time is now. The present is the only time over which we have power. (So don’t waste it by being distracted.)

• The most important person is whomever you are with right now. (So put down that cell phone/turn off the computer and talk to the person you are with - focus, people, focus!)

• The most important thing is to do good to the person you are with (maybe talking with, and really listening to that person is the greatest good you could do for him/her)

Good luck, Steve. And DON’T keep us posted … at least, not hourly.

Happy Interacting.



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