I have owned an iPhone for years and have been hanging out on the edges of technology thanks to the young tech-savvy employees in my business and my kids, whose childhoods grew up on continuous, even if controlled, doses of the web world. I am just competent enough to be dangerous is what I always say and grateful that I have young people around me most days to show me the way back to digital functioning. I skype regularly with customers and vendors and spend hours daily attending to a variety of business functions online.
But it wasn’t until today when my daughter took my phone and Face Timed her older brother that I had the full emotional experience of what the future holds. Here was my boy, his face filling the screen of my phone, his smirk and gestures and voice so close that it felt like he should be in the room. I finally had that Apple intimacy on my iPhone that is depicted in their prime time commercials. We were together even though we were hundreds of miles apart.
It is not a small thing for me to find this bright side to technology. More often I am of the opinion that it is our technology that is leading us to hell in a hand basket- slipping with increasing velocity towards the dystopic futures that my kids take for granted as reality. Stories of families lost to technology are only starting to emerge as cultural markers that may explain dozens of years from now how Orwell’s predictions of the end of relationships began.
I am fighting this progression with everything I have. Creating relationships across generations in rebuilding a courtyard, working to bring teens into a kitchen to make organic meals for chronically ill community members, and making my kids put down their devices for real conversation. Our technological advances are truly extraordinary, as I felt my son so close last night, but they are also primary distractions to the real and messy work of dealing with the people in front of you.
I miss the days when I had to police phone minutes; now I am the only one who uses them, as this next generation has adopted texting as their primary mode of connecting. This discursive modern morse code is too brief to hold the emotional content that passes between people. It is too unwieldy in its speed and frequency to know really what was said, or why. Losing the emotional texture of our lives to technology is the gateway for the loneliness people experience that is beginning to define this time.
We cling to our devices to keep us connected when we are alone, but we also use them as an invisible barrier to not get too close when we are together. Something has to give if we are to survive this technological revolution with our hearts intact.
Maybe there is a book idea in this….