I have become a very distracted person.
I used to think it was the inevitable process of getting older. Aging. That process which eventually robs us of many things, physically and mentally. Or, is it the fact that we have many more distractions today than we ever have had? I am ok with age fogging my memory, that is something I cannot control, and let’s face it my brain is tired after 20+ years of parenting. But, I truly think the problem lies in this tiny computer, in a super cute faux wood case, in the palm of my hand. Facebook started in 2004 and the first generation iPhone was introduced in early 2007. The crazy moment when those two giants converged is when I can honestly say I lost my ability to be present.
I struggle with this every day, and I bet many of you do too.
I can remember when the World Wide Web became a real thing. I was in my early 20s, had a four-year-old and a tech obsessed fiance (we went on to start a successful IT company, but that is another story). He bought a sad little computer that communicated with the Internet with an annoying “beep boo boooooooo” sound before it connected. I then spent hours searching for a wedding dress. I say hours because it literally took at least twenty minutes for a single picture to slowly load on the pixelated screen. To me, this was worse than actual shopping and because it was such a time-consuming activity, it happened only when my toddler was in bed. There was no way I was going to engage in “online shopping” with a small one on my lap smacking the keyboard and putting fingerprints on the monitor.
Fast forward to the present day and that clunky computer has lost its quirks. It is streamlined, portable and pocket-friendly. It also makes phone calls sometimes. It literally has become our right hand, and some of us cannot imagine being without it.
And it is FAST. Everything is fast. The operating system, the pace of information, the speed of life. All so FAST.
And the problem though is that we are all checking out. We can’t keep up so we spend more time trying to. Recently I was scrolling through email or Facebook and a big kid was talking with me, and I found myself saying “uh huh….ya….uh huh..” and they walked out of the room tossing a sarcastic “good talk Mom” over their shoulder. My eyes flicked off the screen in an instant. What had I just missed? What were they telling me? Was it important? Why wasn’t I listening….?
Being distracted is one of the most destructive things we can do to our kids.
Sometimes it is unavoidable, and life just gets in the way. But when a screen commands more of our attention than their sweet faces, that message is conveyed loudly and clearly to them. We are telling them that whatever is happening on that device takes precedence at that moment, and we are teaching them that the world is happening in there not out here.
I have seen the looks on my big kids’ faces when they too are absorbed in their screens, and it makes me cringe because I know I must look that way too, so far away and distant, but also because I want them to look up. I want their eyes to be wide and open and experiencing all that life has to offer! None of that will be found on Facebook, or Instagram, or SnapChat, or anywhere within those 5 illuminated inches.
So, I have been trying to practice what I preach. I hold the phone less, check email less and those Facebook notifications can wait until my kids are in bed. I yearn for the days of no social media, but instead of focusing on that, I focus on teaching the importance of presence. If that phone is really just a camera, then instead please use your camera. If it is a game, then go play a different game. If it is Facebook, go see a friend. I want to be here for my kids in every single way and I want them to be able to give that gift to their kids someday when this virtual world is even larger. At the end of the day, it’s the real connections we make that create a lasting difference in the world, and the beautiful thing is you can do it with more than 140 characters.