"Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau

I know I said "blog like no one is reading" but it's nice to know these people are

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Digital Detachment

I commented to my sister the other day that, as I watched my Number Two Son hurl himself down a race course at 70km/hr, I didn't feel as nervous watching through the lens of our camcorder. I felt more detached from the scene which is why for his second run I gave the camera to her so I could get the full effect including feeling quite sick to my stomach. I know that this is the case anytime I am behind the lens of a camera. It is as if I'm not really there, a part of the action. I am removed from it and because I am the primary photographer of the family that is the case for most family outings and functions from Christmas morning and birthday parties to hockey, ski races and soccer games. So recently I have made a point of not carrying my camera every where I go (that may also because Number Two Son dropped my pocket camera on the floor and my big SLR is too cumbersome) and attempting to capture every waking moment of my kids existence. Don't get me wrong, I still love taking pictures and I have several full portable hard drives to prove it but like with much of the new technology that has invaded our lives it leaves me feeling a bit uneasy. Before with old-fashioned film cameras you had to think carefully about every shot you took since there were only 36 chances on a roll of film at most. If you filled it up with random images of your baby's every move that's all you got and then, of course, you had to pay to get them all developed and see if any were keepers.

The other thing, and this won't be news to any one, which takes us away from being in the present is the cellphone. Calls interrupt family dinners. Texts and emails buzz during games and recitals and remove us from where we are and who we are with. It is amazing to me how quickly it has become acceptable to take a call at the dinner table. Even my father-in-law does it, although I think we have shamed him into not keeping the phone sitting beside his place mat throughout the meal. And don't get me started on my Dad and his blackberry. I guess some might say it is no different than when we used to call my Dad at the office and his rule was, "If it's my kids I'll take the call no matter what it interrupts." His secretary (there's an old-fashioned word) would put us through whether he was with an employee or the president of a bank. But now it's not just us who he's taking calls from in the car, at home, on the golf course. It's every Tom, Dick and Harry who he has given his number to. Of course he can see who is calling (and screening is a whole other post) but nine times out of ten he answers the damn thing. And he is taken out of the moment as we all are. My Other Half complains that the first thing I do when I come downstairs in the morning after I put the coffee on is check my blackberry. What could have possible come in during the night when all my children are safely in their beds? Good question. I don't know why I check it, it has become a reflex. I see that little red light flashing and I have to look.

We complain about teenagers sitting together, not talking but texting one another while in the same room. I already loath the text lingo and abbreviations and my kids don't even have cell phones yet. But it is true all these things take us out of the moment. How can we stop and smell the roses if the only rose we see is posted on some one's blog or facebook page. Common Sense Media has a great post about teens and texting every parent should read. Although I didn't really like the movie "Wall E" I thought the idea of what was left of humankind after we destroyed the Earth was a bunch of fat cruise ship passengers lying on hovercraft lounge chairs staring at screens was a chilling vision of the future especially for a kids cartoon. Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that facebook has reconnected me with my friends from high school and university whom I haven't seen in 20 years and you know I love my blogging buddies but with all these digital distractions we are losing our sense of paying attention to where you are and who you are with. And even my camera which I have used as an excuse to go up to people I barely know at parties for years has become another tool in detaching us from the present. We fill our computers with images, music and videos that we may never look at or listen to again and yet were we really even there when we captured them? Do we remember the look on our child's face when he finished the race or did we notice the smell of the freshly cut grass as we walked across it talking into the phone? I am not advocating returning to a pre-digital time I just am going to make more of an effort myself to unplug from time to time especially when I am with my family or friends and even when I am by myself.

Funnily enough I can't upload any images to this post. Coincidence? I think not.


  1. Great topic – great post.
    When we make ourselves available 24/7, we give ourselves the illusion we’re indispensable. We’re not. Important to others, yes. Indispensable, no.
    And it’s a bit of a Catch-22 – while responding to all those calls we end up ignoring those we are with.
    As for texting and computers, you may not notice this yet with your kids, but my boys now have trouble deciphering handwriting!

  2. I'm guilty of being digitally obsessed but when I realize it's getting in the way of living life I like the feeling of being unplugged.
    stopping by from SITS

  3. Yeah, I think I could definitely do with an "unplugged day" to remind myself to focus! Thanks for the reminder!

    Great post!!

  4. The problem is that you just get caught up in the technology. If you do not play along you get left behind!

  5. Beth, aren't we indispensible? And I already have seen the effect of computers on handwriting, my boys can't read or write cursive.

    Melinda, we all have to unplug and then we can blog about it.

    Naked, I guess it's easier to do what we always do than try something different.

    Otin, you would never be left behind!

  6. Time to get off and be in the now.

  7. That must be scary to watch your sun race. I’m terrified that my son is learning to drive.

    We don’t answer the phone during dinner – that’s what answering machines are for. Same thing when friends are over for a short visit.

    My kids don’t have cell phones but we’ll need to change that policy when my son starts driving alone. I almost never use mine.

    When I’m writing, I won’t answer the phone unless it’s the kids’ school and I even disconnect from email. There is always time to catch up later.

    Excellent post!


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