I have been using my iPhone as a stopwatch, and sometimes for background music, during soccer practice for a while now. Not anymore. Last Thursday one of my players brought his phone on to the field as well and it rapidly became a distraction. I’ll be switching to the more analog way of keeping time.
Soccer requires intense concentration for at least two 45-minute periods. These kids already have trouble concentrating for more than 10 seconds on anything. Let’s not make it worse.
My children and I have been indulging in Screen-Free Week. We have read books, played games, and talked together. A week earlier they were binge-watching something or other in separate rooms on separate devices.
Some days I regret being in this field–my life is defined by screens–but it has given me what one friend calls an Advanced Lifestyle. It helps to remember that there were reasons I chose a field where I could work from anywhere. Being a parent was one of them.
More important than being screen-free is spending time connecting with other people and in being, in some small way, the master of your fate. Taste life rather than submit to gavage. You are more than a consumer.
My daughter told me I should get some face lotion for my dry skin. I thought she would ask why I was crying, but the dry salt of my tears hid among the rough flakes of skin. I can feel them yet there, crusted on my swollen face.
This is how a sixteen year-old says I love you: Use lotion, Dad.
ACTION REQUIRED, the e-mail demands, NOW. Give money. Sale! One day only! You might like this video. Sign our petition now or terrible things will happen! How was your test? Sign our petition now to stop terrible things from happening! What kind of furry animal are you? Fill out this spreadsheet with data from another database, then copy data from spreadsheet column A to spreadsheet column ZZ. What’s for dinner? ACTION REQUIRED.
But can you act when all of these demands force themselves upon your attention and you’re twitching this way and that attempting to satisfy every competing request?
We’ve been trained to act on our impulses immediately, and to expect instant gratification: Send an instant message to your daughter at school asking about whatever springs to mind or sharing something interesting; pop off an unread e-mail to your Congressperson objecting to the latest idiocy; watch a movie now in the comfort of your car; order pizza delivered.
Whereas earlier we couldn’t, and had to learn patience; now we can, and the discipline of patience is but a fleeting memory. As is our memory: Can you hold a thought in your head longer than it takes to tweet at someone?
I recall being supremely irritated when Pennsylvania changed the exit numbers on I-81 from sequential to numbers based on the mileage. My complaint was that I no longer knew how far I had yet to go before getting out of Pennsylvania: the consecutive numbers were a countdown to my destination: 10, 9, 8, 7 ….
For some reason this was more important to me than the actual mileage.
The work some of us have seems to me to exist mainly to serve the computer. That is, we’re not using the computers as tools in our work, but the computers are using us. I know I’m personifying the computer, and it’s really Stu’s — or perhaps Duane’s or IBM’s — fault for writing a program that needs constant human intervention, but my point stands. We are the drones who operate the great looms in the mills of Nottingham. At one time we were the craftsmen who built the looms, but that day has passed. Then we were the mechanics who maintained the looms, but that day too has gone.
The idiocy of this position is more apparent if one talks of the computer as another tool, such as a hammer. Is the carpenter using the hammer, or does the hammer use the carpenter?
This is wrong.
What can be done to return the computer to its place as our tool, and us to its master?