My husband and I deliberately jumped off the runaway train of technology about 7 years ago. Facebook: not my friend. Twitter: bull-tweet. And most of all, NO DEVICES. By devices, I mean Blackberries, iBrains, etc. One small handheld machine functions like an imaginary friend, a security blanket, and crack all rolled into one. Devices promise escape from social anxieties and awkward silences — whip it out as soon as the conversation is at a lull and breathe a sigh of relief as you massage its keys and retreat inward. Bored? Don’t worry, there is no need to reflect on your life or your eternity, just inhale the stimulation from your device now and everything will be OK.
I always feel a little deflated when I am in someone’s presence and the device hops out. I just couldn’t compete with it. Maybe there is important business to be transacted, or maybe that picture just had to be captured and emailed into space, but maybe not. Maybe we could have just been together for a while as we had planned to be.
And all this extra traffic and interconnectedness creates such clutter. In the last 6 months, I have officially reached my personal saturation point — my mind and my calendar and my heart are very, very full. My goal these days is to declutter my mind and my calendar, to reclaim some time and mental space, so that I can live this vocation of the heart more completely. Having the internet at one’s fingertips 24/7 can’t possibly facilitate that.
But, like all good consumers, my husband and I are grappling with our principles when presented with tantalizing upgrade options. Wireless companies are not in the business of preserving our way of life. AT&T’s regular cell phone upgrade options are actually a downgrade: in fact I think they are refurbished versions of a car phone I had 10 years ago. However, the sparkling iPhones and Blackberries are free with a $15/month data plan… they beckon… for just $15/month, you could deal with emails while your kids play at the playground… you could research family restaurants and deals en route from a Sunday family outing… you could send images of all these precious moments to the grandparents in real time, or even make grandparents virtually present with Skype…
But is it good to be so interconnected, so digital, so busy, and to live one step ahead of the present moment instead of in it? When my middle children are occupied at the playground, I COULD get a lot done… but I also can play with my baby uninterrupted, or if he’s napping and it hits me that all is quiet, I might even be able to pray there in the sunshine. And some spontaneity and some confusion, rather than knowing steps A-Z, make for some of the best family memories. And true friendships are those where the conversation can lull and each others’ presence is enough, without a go-to device. And do my children need to feel like they have to compete with a device for my attention? I could see myself becoming the fastest draw in the West. When they’re teenagers being lured by iEverything, I want them to remember that I sacrificed technology to be with them when they were little.
So, upgrade or not? AT&T is trying to force our hand.