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Alone, Together We Stand

Posted in: Blog by admin on December 12, 2010

From upstairs in my bedroom, I hear Ben (my 11-year-old son) having a conversation with someone in the basement.  He is speaking loudly because the person with whom he is speaking is five miles away in his own basement and they are talking to each other through their Xbox Live game.  It’s pretty cool.  They wear headsets and play one another in live games, from anywhere in the world.  Of course, they talk to one another (loudly) throughout their high-intensity matches.

It’s great that on a day like today, when the winds are howling, the snow is blowing and the temperature is dropping, that Ben can play his favorite games with some buddies without any of us parents having to leave the house to drive to a friend’s.  I am happy that these convenient options exist, but I wonder what the consequences will be for our children.  Sure, there are a lot of kids outside building igloos, having snowball fights and making snow angels, as we used to do.  But, there are a lot more sitting warmly inside, installing new apps on their parent’s iPads, texting their friends and communicating through video games.  It’s so easy, for all of us.

These amazing electronic devices clearly make many tasks seem effortless and, at times, more exciting.  It brings many of us together, but oftentimes, it does so from our own homes and cars and offices.  Businesspeople can video conference; friends can chat on Skype or Face Time; we can shoot someone a text instead of making a call.  There are so many new conveniences.  So, we need to be aware of what we are leaving behind in the wake of these zooming and booming advancements.

We aren’t learning, recalling or remembering like we used to.  Oftentimes, before we even challenge our memories to recall a certain location or definition, we are clicking on Google and getting our answer.  Again, it’s convenient, but we’re not even trying to exercise our brains.  Maybe I cold argue that these efficient tools free us and enable us to use our saved time for other fulfilling opportunities, such as reading or enjoying face-to-face time with people we love.

How are we actually using our extra time?  And, are we becoming so accustomed to communicating with people via text and email and even video games that we are losing the value of our personal conversations?

I think it’s great that Ben and his buddies are communicating from the comfort of their own homes.  But I also know that they are missing out on having to compromise with one another (“I want to sit there. I want to play a different game. I want a snack.”).  I suppose with most advances, there are great benefits that inevitably are accompanied by some negative results.  That’s just life.  I’m not pronouncing it as right or wrong — I’m just trying to remain aware of it.  Without that awareness, I think we are in big trouble.

Recently, when I was waiting in line at the grocery store with my eyes focused on my phone’s small screen, the woman who was ringing up my purchase simply asked, “Do you need a receipt, Sweetheart?”  I looked up to her warm, captivating smile.  I realized in that moment that I had missed an opportunity.  I missed an opportunity to connect briefly with a kind soul.  (How many people warmly call a stranger sweetheart anymore?)  I walked out of the store promising myself that I will be more present.  And, now, as I hear the continual chatter from the basement, I am reminded of that lesson (which I intend to impart to my children) to be present and aware — aware of opportunities to absorb life’s beautiful moments and also aware of all of the wonderful, exciting, challenging advances that benefit our daily lives as they bring us together … and keep us apart.

There are dozens of different paths on which this thought process could weave and travel.  I could focus on children today, our changing way of communicating with one another, the moments that we miss, etc.  But, as I’m typing this and envisioning all of the potential conversations that could ensue from the sound of Ben’s voice traveling from the basement, I am reminded of a great irony:  I am writing to my friends, family and strangers and sharing my thoughts and ideas and observations — through the internet!  So, while I’m very connected to you in one sense, I’m also completely “apart” from you at the same time.  We are alone and together.  We are together and apart.  We are talking to each other but not looking one another in the eyes.  We are playing games in our basements and typing in our bedrooms and communicating in line at the grocery stores.

It’s wonderfully liberating in many ways, yet, at the same time, it is sad, as well.  For someone who loves to smile and hug and laugh, I am keeenly aware of the fact that I like to do those things in the presence of another, with another, connected to another.  The thought is a Catch 22 of sorts because it is because of these technological advancements that we are able to be so connected in ways that we never had been.  However, at the same time, we are connected in a more disconnected way.

It’s something to be aware of, to think about and to consider the next time you are playing Scrabble while in line at the store — the next time your son spends the afternoon alone in the basement, yet “with” his friends — the next time you miss an opportunity to smile at a kind woman in the check-out line.  I always come back to this fact:  All we have in life are some random, beautiful moments.  Sometimes they come and go when we least expect them.  So, don’t miss them by being buried in gadgets.  And, when you are getting lost in technological toys, remember to be aware of where you are and where you want to be.

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3 Responses to “Alone, Together We Stand”

  1. Jenny says:

    You are so insightful. I loved this one! Sending it around. I totally feel this way and I hate how kids now hide behind their texts instead of communicating either face to face or on the phone. We all need to communicate more “personally” – as I write this comment to you on the internet:)!

  2. karyn bravo says:

    Very good Amy! Thanks for the food for thought! You are a wonderful writer!

  3. adrienne lawrence says:

    Amy, you are such a sweet amazing woman… I simply love reading everything you write.

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