Ahhhh, the virtual world, (you can't help but rub your hands together like a mad scientist on the verge of discovering the formula that will take over the world when you approach your portal of choice), whether it's the:
- Dsi or
- your cell phone
They are all brimming with possibilities, to take you to unknown lands, to solve the mysteries of the moment in your life, to transport you to vivid worlds of escapism, to help you diagnose every ailment within a 10 mile radius and to connect you with your "village." This is the world we have been waiting for, ever since Captain Kirk beamed up Scotty and the Jetsons popped a tiny pill in a machine and poof! There was dinner. It's our turn now, our chance to make magic happen in the palm of our hands. With one finger swipe, we've got the power. Alas, if only life were that simple. For in reality, there's the yin and the yang. And too much of a good thing is never a good thing. We need to strike a balance.
That begs the question, what is a balance? In this case, my simple answer is, we are in balance when we feel no pain, discomfort or uneasiness. When we can flow, we are in balance.
Now, let's apply that to the myriad of digital technologies that many of us use day to day, for many hours of the day and shine the light on our balance, or lack there of.
(WARNING: before we go any further, if you are reading this on your phone, please look up every few sentences, we wouldn't want you to end up face down in a water fountain that would be a "float" not a "flow".)
Consider these scenarios:
You wake up and text your co-workers, so you are all on the same page about the day's projects. You are up, out the door, on the road and on time. You are flowing with your technology.
You are skyping with your lover who is in some far away land and you only manage two hours of sleep, causing you to miss your dental appointment for the third time. Although, many would sympathize with your Billy Dee and Diana Ross-type love affair. Clearly, this is out of balance and not good for your teeth.
Your 7-year- old is having a tantrum on the family room floor because he wants to play the "Batman Lego" game on his PSP one more time, but he hasn't practiced piano, eaten his dinner or finished his homework AND it's a school night for heaven's sake. This is pain for you, pain for him and pain for the school counselor who has to navigate his shoddy school record and piece together some semblance of a college application when the time comes.
And finally, you are on the road to a small town in northern Michigan to attend your husband's new supervisor's family soiree. You WILL be late if something doesn't change, because your good eyes tell you that you've past that general store and the blue house with the ducks on the front lawn at least three times, but your good sense tells you to keep quiet. When your other half pops into the gas station to pay for gas and buy snacks (directions are the last thing on his mind), you quickly punch up the the new boss' address on your pocket GPS and voila, mystery solved, marital mood intact and your hubby's new higher -paying job is secure. You, my dear, are flowing with your technology.
Humor aside, the larger question that looms, as our technologies and digital opportunities seep deeper and deeper into our personal and workplace lives, is are we better for it?
When some statistics, just discussed on the "Today" show, say young American teens are spending on average 53 hours per week online, we have to wonder what that's doing to their parents' Internet bill and our teens' developing perception of their lives and our world. Can you tell the philosopher in me is going to chime in? After the shocking Columbine shootings in 1999, our country was left searching for answers. I was most impressed and changed by the sociologists who went as far as looking at how urban planning and architectural design of our country's cities and homes respectively, had come to assist in creating mass DISCONNECT, leading to isolationism and creating more opportunities for misguided, hormonally driven teens who are already on the fringe to act out in a veritable vacuum. Key word here: DISCONNECT. If our USE of technologies is contributing to our families, friendship circles and other communities being more DISCONNECTED, then I would say we are out of balance.
How do we incorporate this deluge of digital delicacies into our lives and into the lives of our families without creating a disconnect and being out of balance? My answer, don't let it take over you, you take over it. Set boundaries and parameters for your digital dalliances.
A. For yourself, set a time limit for e-mails. And why bother with all the forwards that are like chain letters that implore you to send this same e-mail to 10 more friends, or else you break the vibe and don't get the $500 coming your way. Real friends don't junk up your inbox with these time wasters.
B. Don't text when you are with your children and you know you should be interacting with them. They see it, process it, emulate it and internalize your apparent priorities. Save it. That's the beauty of texting, it's not immediate and it'll be there when you get to it.
C. For your family, set some "techno time and place limits." Consider the Obama family plan, no digital anything, including TV, until Friday night after school, Saturday and Sunday. As for place limits, really, at the dinner table? Do I even have to speak on that?
D. Incentivize digital usage by your family. It seems to me that most of the time spent on DSis playing games are "brain drain" video fun, like when we played "Galaga" (my favorite) or "Pac Man" before remote controls were invented. Mind you, I couldn't just hang out at the arcade for hours on end. Consider this: an hour of book reading can net your child a half -hour on the Wii.
E. Tune in to how you feel and how your children are behaving. If your eyes are burning and turning red, only your thumbnails are breaking and you haven?t heard your 10-year-old say a thing in an hour at home, well you may be enjoying the peace and quiet, but the price of that quiet is all the childhood moments you can't get back, moments full of those "kids say the darndest things" times, moments when you could be connecting.
While, our digital technologies continue to expand and evolve, we are living during an especially amazing time in history. Let us not lose sight though of the purpose for which we've toiled to innovate. Correct me if I'm wrong, but our goals are to improve upon our current state of affairs, not drown out and disconnect from our lives. I do enjoy the new world of technologies at my fingertips, but I am careful with my time. We only have so much of that and I don't know about you but when my time is up, I hope to have USED the virtual world to do more of what seems to matter the most, stay in balance and connect. Somehow a condolence message sent via text just wouldn't do.
That brings me to another thing........we'll look at that next time!