I never thought I’d see the day. As we sat around the kitchen table before dinner this week, I noticed the quiet. Not total silence, since there was the intermittent beeping and chirping and chiming produced by technical devices — the modern day scourge, as I like to think of it. But no actual talking. We, the shoutiest, gabbiest, chattiest group on the planet, had gone quiet. All three of my offspring were involved with their own devices — be it iphone, iPad, or laptop. It was disgusting! I was horrified and shamed all at once that my family had sunk to these depths.
“Have you people no manners?” I screamed. “We’re all gathered here together for a family holiday and you’re not speaking to one another! You’re just texting or googling or tapping away to strangers. Have I taught you nothing?”
“Sorry, Mom. Were you saying something?” Crazy D asked, taking off his headphones. Perhaps he sensed the wave of caustic blue air heading his direction.
“Yes, I was talking. How can you all sit there and ignore each other like that? I wanted to have a shouty, interesting dialogue at dinner — the way we always do. We have things to share, things that have happened during the past year, things to remember fondly and reminisce about. And speaking of being together, I note in passing that we haven’t had a real ‘nest’ yet. Everyone retreats to their own room to watch Netflix on their personal devices. I don’t like it. Technology is great but I fear it is invading our family time, making us less involved with each other.”
This tradition of movie night in ‘the nest’, a.k.a. my bed, is one of long standing. We bring all the dogs, Mrs. Beeton the parakeet and Pete the pocket parrot in with us,eat popcorn and watch a bad movie that we have all agreed is awful. The worse the film, the happier we are. The only ones not on our playlist are super violent, noisy ones. Mrs. Beeton’s delicate sensibilities are easily offended and she flies around the room in distress when things blow up or AK47s start shooting. Then at least one dog (content to share space with Mrs. Beeton under normal circumstances) is apt to lunge at the parakeet as she swoops and dives in flight. I dare the Internet or any hand held device to compete with that!
Everyone except me reads the newspaper online in the morning, shopping is done online, tickets for movies purchase through the Internet, restaurant reservations confirmed via somebody’s iPhone. I swear, sometimes I think the only thing we do ourselves is go to the bathroom. It’s not a good trend.It is stressful and often ends with frayed tempers. Case in point is Crazy D and his online misadventures. He does work related things on my computer as well as organize trips. He recently was trying to fill in an application for a bike race he is entering. Out came The Rage, as we call it. Everyone stays well away while he screams and shakes his fists at the computer. We fear that, after hurling expletives he’ll hurl the actual machine.We’re all guilty of venting our anger at the beast, but Crazy D takes it to a whole new level. Oh, well…someone has to do it. I would point out the irony in Crazy D signing up to do something relaxing and healthy (a bike race) while ranting and raising his blood pressure…but I’m not that sort of mother.
“But Ma,” Gill interjected, “Crazy D and I talked on our way here from Toronto. And L’il Sis and I chatted when I drove her home from work.”
“But I wasn’t there to listen and participate, was I? It’s not a family discussion unless we’re all present, is it? I refuse to become one of those disconnected families where everyone keeps to themselves, never interacting in person, having no emotional relationship. I’ve been railing against that for years! And now you’ve all turned on me. Ingrates. Next thing I know, you’ll be those people who step off curbs into traffic while texting and I’ll be called upon to identify the bodies.”
“Mom, just because you aren’t of the 21st century doesn’t mean the rest of us have to languish in pioneer times as well. You’re the only person I know who can turn a perfectly normal social habit into a day at the morgue. We are very responsible about not using tech devices in restaurants and such or texting when inappropriate.”
“Well, it just seems very antisocial to me. Whatever happened to talking face to face or writing letters by hand? Both lost arts. I fear for the future of humanity. You can’t use emoticons for everything, you know.”
“Ma, would it make you feel better if we sat here right now and had a rip-roaring discussion about how society is doomed, the environment is killing us, food wars are about to break out? You could shout and everything, burst into tears if you felt so inclined.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful! I take it all back — you do care! Nothing like a good family altercation to get the blood flowing.”