“I feel alone.”
“Hmm?” I grunted, not bothering to look up from my phone. Some new app held my attention.
She sighed. I continued letting my eyes and mind roll across the screen soaking in information that I might not even remember in a few hours.
She stood and walked into the kitchen turning off the overhead light while she left, leaving me in a virtual black hole.
I didn’t even notice.
My wife stood in the kitchen with the refrigerator door open, digging around for something to occupy her completely bored mind. It wasn’t until after the door slammed closed that I finally looked up.
“What’s up?” I said, “What’d ya say?”
She turned toward me and met my eyes, “I said ‘I feel alone’. All you do when you come home from work is sit and play online or on your phone. I’m bored and don’t feel like you even care if I am here or not.”
I was ready, instantly thrust into defensive mode. My entire body felt on fire. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as if I was running a marathon and I could see the finish line in the distance. I actually got out of my chair. That’s right; I stood up.
“Wait a minute,” I began, holding the crazy just on the other side of my lips, “you were just playing on your phone too. How is it that I’m getting the third degree here?” I could feel my face heating up as the blood was bubbling.
“I put my phone down,” she looked around the corner to the clock hanging above the television, which I noticed was on (when had that happened?), “almost twenty minutes ago, right after I turned the T.V. on and asked if you wanted to come sit with me and watch something together!”
I looked back at the television. It was on, that was a fact that could not be denied. Jimmy Fallon seemed to be playing some game with a guest who had a book coming out soon. I glanced back to my wife and then back to the T.V. What was going on here? Everyone’s “connected” in this modern world, even her. I mean, how else are we supposed to know who’s tweeting, and what’s going on with Snapchat, and which pic to double tap on Instagram, oh and we can’t forget about grandpa Facebook, can we? Should we? The lines have blurred, and social norms have change for the better, right? All generations are more connected and the world is a better place, or so we hope.
I am an educator by trade; music is my forte (pun intended). As you can imagine I get a chance to recharge these old batteries during the summers. This past summer, my wife and I took the Glorious American Road Trip to see the wonders of this amazing country. Along the highways of America I took notice of the way people interact with each other in person. We had a chance to eat our far share meals in restaurants around the different towns and states on our route. Many people, mostly under 35, at some point during the meal would check their social media, or email, or post a picture, or some sat in silence and played video games on their device. I’m also guilty. I love to be connected. But am I losing my "real" connections around me? As I type out a text message or an update my status with a picture of my meal, the world doesn’t stop going on around me. Am I missing it? Is someone missing me? Maybe they should retweet my last earthshaking thought that I just HAD to share with my 40+ followers. As we traveled I realized that maybe, just maybe, I am missing out.
Being an educator, I’ve watched as we have started using digital devices in the classroom as learning tools. I have also observed most of the kids I teach get completely distracted from the lesson they should be learning by their access to games and social media on their devices. I want to go on record and say I think the idea of digital learning is fantastic. The execution currently leaves a bad taste in a lot of educator’s mouths. This isn’t to say that improvements can’t be made, but are we molding young minds to turn to their devices before they turn to their neighbors? Are the personal relationships suffering? When you walk by a classroom where every kid has their head buried in their device and the classroom is pin-drop silent, should we be saying good job to the teachers for their classroom management or administrators for ushering in the newest learning curriculum? We all know that looks are deceiving and should remember that a portion of those kids are using Kik or watching videos on YouTube when the teacher’s monitoring on the other side of the room. Some are even snapping pictures or videos trying to frame that teacher in a negative way because they got a bad grade on a test they didn’t study for or care about. We are aware, adolescents don’t always make the best choices. Does that mean that it can’t work? No, it doesn’t. I have seen it work in my own classroom. It takes motivation, and patience. Loads of patience, with digital responsibility lessons mixed in.
The 21st century has been a mad scramble for the next technological leap. It’s has gotten to the point where we have become so connected to everyone through our devices that we’ve become disconnected in our daily lives. I’m positive that my wife and I are not the only couple to have the discussion above about the technological chains that have been placed upon all of the 1st worlders, with our easy access to any and everything. These distractions simultaneously pull us from basic human interaction while fulfilling the same needs. Is there a point where we must make a conscious effort to change our personal digital habits? Have we, as a culture, degraded our own face-to-face interactions so much that within the next few generations we may see new anxiety disorders popping up where people can’t deal with being in the same room as another person? Has it already begun? I say possibly. I would even go as far to say probably. Some of you may even think yes, or worse, know the answer is yes because you have to live with the fear of having an interaction that isn’t online, or through a video chat.
If that’s where we are headed, then the future of the human race could be doomed if only in the sense that procreation will become more difficult.