“Hi! Hello! I thought this was a lunch date. Why are you texting someone else while I wait for your attention?”
“Oh, sorry! Just a minute.” Continues to ignore friend and focus on screen. Food arrives. She puts the phone away. It seems her priorities are her private texts and her rumbling stomach.
What is the point of dining together when you aren’t present for the person sitting across the table?
This is a situation I witness frequently. Couples spend date nights in nice restaurants, constantly on their phones, one oblivious to the other who is equally disengaged. They surface only to share the fascinating discoveries in their news feed.
Children have been playing video games for many years. Some parents are happy to hook their children to the television screen for a bit of peace, and many do not limit screen time. Kids today are pumped full of technology so sophisticated that some lose the ability to imagine, to play, to form plans of their own.
When I was little, I was rarely inside and it was glorious. On a nice day, it feels like a crime to stay indoors. Take a child outside and ask them to play. Many do not know how to climb trees and run through the woods, go swimming in a cold river, or get muddy on purpose. What a loss. There are television shows teaching kids how to play with toys, to speak with their voices and move them around creatively. It saddens me to realize that the days of manual play may be becoming extinct. Many teenagers today are glued to social media, and cannot part with their devices. They do not remember dial-up.
I worry that we have lost vital social skills, hiding behind the rising walls of technological evolution.
Technology has been helpful, and occasionally life-saving; it has been shaping the future from the start. It has also been detrimental.
When was the last time you asked a person, “Hi, how are you?” and waited for a response? Who asks a stranger where to find peanut butter in the grocery store, or talks shop with the person behind them in the Starbucks line? Does anyone remember eye contact? We have been forced apart for so long that we have distanced ourselves from each other in more ways than one. We are isolated and emotionally estranged. I have found that personal connections are preferable without a screen between. I imagine I was not the only kid who built cereal box boundaries between her sisters at the breakfast table. How quickly we laughed and let them fall away. The cereal boxes of today pull us in and do not surrender so easily.
Look up! Observe your surroundings. Open your eyes and experience “real life.” When we strive to capture a moment through the lens of a camera, we waste valuable human connection. We do not truly experience these moments in our struggle to retain them permanently. The photograph may last longer, but will you ever see it again? You missed it.
Let us remember that “virtual” is not reality.