Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Another Luddite Rant

The kinfauna are growing up, becoming hulking, terrifying teenagers, all with—oh dear—phones in their undisciplined hands. 
To be clear, my annoyance is not with cells themselves, but how people act around them. I know I have done stupid things because I was looking at a text, like almost walking into traffic. Idiot idiot idiot, you are not allowed a smartphone. 

Take that sort of mindlessness and hand them a car. Whoop de doo. 

Because of the novelty of phones, too many people allow them to take over their lives. So the next generation, the children who were born in to this current techie existence, need ground rules, which Bruce Feiler provides in "How to Manage Media in Families" and "Hey, Kids, Look at Me When We're Talking." 

After he lists all the ways parents can monitor their children's phone and media, he writes: 
One surprising thing I heard about these agreements: They should include restrictions on the parents, who are the most egregious technology abusers of all. Ms. Schofield Clark’s daughter insisted on the clause, “When I have something to say, Mommy has to close the laptop and listen.”
Her son added a rule. Beginning when her children were young, Ms. Schofield Clark took their photo with Santa every Christmas. She forced them to do it when they were teenagers, then posted the photo on Facebook. Within seconds, her otherwise hibernating 14-year-old son came bolting from his bedroom. Their agreement now includes the plank, “If Mom wants to post a photo with a kid in it, she needs to ask.”
Parents can't be annoyed if their kids ignore them when using technology if they do the same thing. It's called being a role model.

In his second article, Feiler discusses the worry that children today are lagging in deciphering face-to-face interactions. I, for one, am relieved that Shabbos enforces a day of no phones and yes shul to demand social dexterity. 
Sharon Turkle's "Stop Googling. Let's Talk" has more terrifying data to prove her point. Because of the imminent possibility of "more interesting" distractions, conversations aren't invested in. Deep, fully present, vulnerable talk is where empathy happens. 

On the flip side, with phones we are never alone. But empathy also needs alone time. 
The capacity for empathic conversation goes hand in hand with the capacity for solitude.
In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours. If we can’t gather ourselves, we can’t recognize other people for who they are. If we are not content to be alone, we turn others into the people we need them to be. If we don’t know how to be alone, we’ll only know how to be lonely.
It takes a tremendous amount of effort to see oneself, almost as though it is a separate entity. That cannot be done without removing distractions and plunging into the abyss.
This actually exists!
Turkle is also aware that phones aren't going anywhere, but we should be more proactive in limiting their influence. Packing it away, going out without it . . . believe me, it is quite freeing. 
Friendships become things to manage; you have a lot of them, and you come to them with tools. So here is a first step: To reclaim conversation for yourself, your friendships and society, push back against viewing the world as one giant app. It works the other way, too: Conversation is the antidote to the algorithmic way of looking at life because it teaches you about fluidity, contingency and personality.
Human connection isn't here to entertain us; it is here to bind us, even in times of boring silence.     


Daniel Saunders said...

Yes! My Dad works with new recruits (typically post-school or post-university) at a big multinational company. He tells them he spends one day a week with computer, TV or phone. Their response is invariably bewilderment and shock.

Princess Lea said...

Never heard of a "Tech Sabbath," huh?