Recently, I ate at one of my favorite restaurants with a good friend of mine. After I flipped through the many pages of the menu, I glanced over to my right and saw a young girl, maybe nine or ten, with her eyes buried in a cell phone, hands moving at lightning speed. I didn’t think too much about it until I noticed that her mom was doing the exact same thing, albeit at a slower pace. I watched this scene for a while, and neither mother nor child spoke one word to the other, instead choosing to communicate with someone who was probably miles away.

This is the new reality of our changing world. I recently came across a video on YouTube of a baby trying to “slide” pictures in a magazine. Apparently this child who was barely one year old had mastered Apple’s technology but was confused by simple paper. I can only imagine what the infant was thinking: “This flimsy device is broken! What’s the deal?”

  • I’m sure you’ve seen countless examples in your own life…
  • A two-year-old sits in the front of a grocery cart playing a game. The game makes more noise than the child. I’m sure my mom wished that technology had been around when I was in diapers….
  • Or how about the ten-year-old who is preoccupied with his digital device while sitting with his doctor in the examination room? “Never mind, doc, I got WebMD up, so you can run along now.”

Growing Up

When I was a youngster, I was always running around outside, looking for stuff to throw, climb and hide behind. My sister and I devised games that put our minds and bodies through an invigorating workout; no electronics were necessary. We played with animals, named shapes of clouds, and dared the little boys in the neighborhood to chase us down…we were faster!

When it came time to eat, our mother had two rules. One was eat everything on your plate, which I found to be a horrible rule, and two…no TV. That was an easier rule to digest. And you know what? We conversed with one another. Our eyes weren’t buried in a screen, or a book for that matter. It was just people and food and the occasional sad, expectant dog eyes peering up from under the table.

What Reality Are We Creating?

I realize that the computer age has improved our lives in many ways, and I’m not complaining about the advancements, but what example are we setting for our children? Are we helping to change our world for the worse by interacting with machines much more regularly than humans or even animals for that matter? Fido is probably wishing those loud machines that beep and buzz all the time would just disappear. Maybe right now, there’s a legion of dogs planning to steal all the cell phones and bury them deep in the earth. Now that would make newsworthy headlines!

In many ways, we see the damage created by a constantly “plugged in” society. Children lack interest in physical activity, and that has led to disturbing childhood obesity rates. Young people are more concerned with emoting through a device than in person. How about a “real” smiley face for once?

Many journalists talk about the scarcity of manners and social skills in our society. Visit any city and you may see firsthand how we have devolved in this area. Surely it’s no coincidence that this tumble in social skills has coincided with the ubiquitous usage of handheld devices. Manners and social skills need to be actively practiced and consciously considered, because it’s too easy to forget about them and let them deteriorate.

Balance is the Key

For me, it’s all about proper balance between old ways and new ways. While it’s important to remain current in a world ruled by technology, it doesn’t mean we have to be absorbed by it. I refuse to let it control me. Here are a few changes I’m making today to create balance:

When I’m eating dinner, I put my cell phone on vibrate and for safe measure, stick it under a pillow.
When I go out for a walk, I smile and say hello to every person who walks by. I may be listening to music, but I’m not too absorbed to be unfriendly.
I engage with my family when we’re in the same room. Even if we’re watching TV together, we’ll discuss the show.

If we disengage from anything, let it be our devices, not our lives. We have to take the time to physically engage with life and other people.

My sister and I still run around outside, but we might be a bit slower these days and our knees might tell us to take it easy as we chase those yellow tennis balls around. But for me, I’d rather chase a real ball on an actual court than one on a tiny screen that my eyes have to squint to see. What sounds like more fun to you, and more engaging?

I think we should all make an effort to rest our electronics. Try to avoid using them at dinner, especially if your young ones are right in front of you. Be the good example.
1. In your opinion, what are the downfalls of a technology dominated society?

2. Have technological advances helped to strengthen or hinder relationships (friends and family) in your life?

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