Merging the digital and the real, musings from a new age mom

Several weeks ago, I found myself sitting in my living room on the couch with my husband and daughter. Each one of us engrossed in our own private world, the hubby on his iPhone, the kiddo on the family iPad and me with a book. To be honest, it was a moment that scared me; we were physically together as a family but unlike my son’s early days when family time meant sharing an experience together. This brave new family time meant sharing physical space but nothing more. I suspect my mood wasn’t helped by reading The Big Disconnect.  

Families struggling to have meaningful time together is nothing new, but today’s technologies are making it harder than ever, if we aren’t mindful.  A few days ago, my eight year old daughter asked me what life was like back in the old days when there were no iGadgets. I explained to her that iGadgets were a relatively new invention, like within her own lifetime. She laughed at me, and for a moment I thought maybe I had started early onset dementia. After some poking around and thanks to that marvel known as Wikipedia, I learned that the first generation iPhone was released in 2007, Facebook, that place where we all go to share the good, the bad and the ugly became available to the masses in 2006 and my personal favorite Twitter, came on the scene in 2006.

So many of these services and tools that are now as much a part of our daily lives as our morning coffee or tea are less than 10 years old. Hell, we are still using our first generation iPad here in BGIM land, first generation iPads were released in 2010.

In other words, our world and even certain economies are being reshaped by technologies that are so brand new, that none of us know what the long term implications will be. Or if there will be any at all. It really is a brave new world.

Yet as new as it all is, we can’t avoid it. In the past several years, there have been many pieces written from folks who have decided to unplug. Have you ever noticed that when people unplug, there is a delicious irony that you are inevitably reading about it on their blog or website?  I have often talked about and even attempted a few digital hiatuses and always come up short. A break longer than 24 hours barring being away in an exotic locale simply isn’t feasible for my lifestyle. One year I tried to give up Facebook for 30 days and lasted about 16 days when I realized people don’t call each other anymore and that even making plans to get together typically require logging onto Facebook.

But all is not lost, while ours is a fast paced world, we do have choices on just how much to let into our lives at any given time. Three weeks ago we instituted a digital Sabbath at our house. In short on Sunday, we the grownups are allowed a few minutes to check emails and important networks in the morning but after that, all screens are off. The only exception is if we choose to watch a video or film together as a family. I admit to feeling a certain amount of trepidation at first but after three Sundays, I can say that I enjoy it. It was definitely interesting to watch the last two episodes of Breaking Bad without tweeting about it, but it also meant that I was more fully immersed in the show. The eight year old is learning that while she gives up playing video games on Sunday, she actually gets to play on the floor with both mom and dear old dad. At the end of each Sunday I am noticing that I am calmer and more centered. I start Monday off actually feeling refreshed.                                                       

All of this brings me to my last thought, despite the dizzying array of social media options available to us, trying to be a part of all of them makes little sense for the average Joe/Jane. Back when I had my eyes set on blogger fame, no sooner than a new service would come out that I would sign up. I still don’t know what the hell Get Glue is but since I rarely watch TV, signing up was a bad idea. Thankfully I don’t get too many emails from them, since I have no idea where my password is.

It’s a crazy, hazy world that we are living in but going back in time isn’t an option, instead I am learning to balance the new with the old and learning that they can exist together in harmony.