The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: technology

smart-phoneThe other night, I was standing in our dining room, leaning up against a piece of furniture, chiming into conversation but primarily scrolling through my phone, looking at the latest news going on in the outside world (no lack of those lately), what friends were up to, and checking in to see if any emails I had been waiting for popped up.

The family was going about various evening norms – unpacking the array of bags that seem like we’re boarding an airplane but really just make up our collective day, sorting through the mail, looking at what’s in the fridge and at recipes for dinner possibilities. A one year old little girl wandering about with that cute little waddle, babbling away with sounds that we think we understand but can never be sure, and a 4 year old little boy bouncing around the house with more energy than any of us could hope to muster at any given point of day, let alone the exhausting post work, kid-pick-up, drive home, kid unload, baggage unload, figure out dinner part of the day.

I was there, completely exhausted and mindlessly moving my hand across the screen, when that little voice chimed in “Wanna play with me daddy?”

And, tiredly, I looked at him, smiled…and gave him some reason of how I really wasn’t up for playing and was really very tired. He walked away, a little bummed, and sat down to see what was on PBS Kids as I continued moving my finger across the phone, taking in all of the outside world in its digitally relayed form, and completely ignoring the physical one right in front of me.

Meg leaned nearby, and quietly said “He’s not going to be asking for much longer.”

Wow.

I stopped for a moment, looking up from my phone and over at that little boy watching television. How big he’s gotten already. How fast he’s growing. How quickly he’s changing. From the little baby I held in my arms in the hospital to the little toddler who learned to walk to talk, to count, the alphabet, using the potty, spelling his name. It all happened in the span of four years now, but it seems like it went by in the blink of an eye. A cliche? Sure. But the reason they have cliches is because they’re true for so many.

In the blink of an eye all that time was gone. He’ll never be discovering those same things again. New things, sure. But never those firsts we’ve already crossed over. He’s already in Pre-k, making friends, telling us about his days in the car and over dinner. Heck, we have kindergarten registration next week. Before I know it, he’ll be there, every day, all day in school.

In that same blink of an eye, we’ll be through grade school, dealing with the junior high years, high school, whatever comes beyond. It will happen so quickly and I will wish, beg, pray for the chance to play with my little boy again. And I won’t have it. That time will have passed.

I couldn’t escape the sounds of Cat’s in the Cradle playing through my head as I looked at him in that moment.

All of this swirled through my mind in a matter of seconds after Meg spoke the words. How right she was.

I closed the phone, walked over to him and sat down next to him, asking about what he was watching, then asking if he still wanted to play. He wanted to play something different, but it was still something.


© Copyright 2011 CorbisCorporationI’ve been feeling the drain again when it comes to social media.

I’m not quite sure what it is….an overload, perhaps? Whatever it is, I just find myself borderline depressed at times thinking about how much time I spend on some social media platform like Facebook.

Posting updates of what I did today, a great new photo of the family or my son, writing about some fun film or documentary I just unearthed or learned about…then checking back in to see if anyone’s liked or commented on any of those…furiously going back when I get that little notification in the corner only to find it’s just someone else responding or commenting to something I’ve commented on.

It becomes a downright addiction, doesn’t it?

I take a step back and say to myself ‘what the heck am I doing?!’ This is time I could be out and about and doing something.

There’s a few other factors at work aside from the ‘time waster scenario.

Privacy Settings:

Facebook has, yet again, changed their privacy settings and made functions that used to be within a user’s control no longer available. When it came to my personal profile, I was pretty darn strict with who could find me, who could see my postings, etc, etc. That’s all gone now due to Facebook’s changes.

Now, the old settings are gone and whether I like it or not, people can search for and find me on there, leading to a number of friend requests from folks I’ve never laid eyes on sitting forever in my queue.

What’s really even more mind-boggling to me is that with these latest changes, if I ‘like’ or comment on one of my friends’ status’, people who I may be friends with who don’t even know that person or are connected to them, can now comment and like it as well. I just find that odd. These people have no connection whatsoever, and now I sometimes find myself getting apprehensive to ‘like’ or say anything, for fear of what random other online associates will chime in, even though they may have no idea who this other person is that they’re commenting to. It’s just, I don’t know, weird to me.

Then there are photos. I’ve loved sharing photos of good times, my family, etc, but now…I suddenly start thinking more and more about who is seeing those photos. It’s so easy for one friend to hit ‘share’ and that one photo of mine to go out to a world of people whom I don’t know in the least.

Knowing too much:

And, of course there’s just that general feeling of overload with what almost every single person I know is doing, thinking, liking, etc. When in the world did we become a culture that had to know every waking movement of each other and likewise, sharing every intimate detail of our lives?

I started thinking back to when I was a kid, a teenager, heck, even in college and just after graduation. There wasn’t a Facebook (there wasn’t even a MySpace), an Instagram or Twitter.

In a lot of ways, it felt like you lived your life, others lived theirs and the only way you heard about it is if you ran into them or had mutual friends in common. And you know what? Life was pretty good and happy.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit naive and believing ignorance is bliss.

But how many weird anxieties have people in this era gone through because social media fills them with a need to constantly be expressing how upset they are about their car, how boring their professor may be (why are you texting in class anyway, kid?), what you ate for lunch today, etc?!

Cyber-bullying:

Not to mention the harassment that comes with it for some. How many cases of online or cyber-bullying do we hear about in the news as of late? And when it happens, I can’t tell you how frustrated I get at the people who say things like ‘these kids need to toughen up.’ No. You know why? Because, despite what those people think, it’s NOT like it was back in our day or before. When I was growing up, if you had a bully or bullies beating down on you at school, you could go home, find refuge in your house or with your friends.

Today, that bully has such a farther reach than ever before that it was unheard of when I was growing up. The internet and social media is in our homes, in our hands. It. Is. Everywhere. And it’s kind of insane to me that people don’t see that. We could get away as kids/teens. We could regroup, breathe, and tough it out at home with a little down time. Today’s kids don’t get that luxury because it is everywhere they go. They are bombarded with it in school, out of school, in their own damn homes. And no child should have to go through that.

I can not imagine what it is like for these kids to live in this technological age and I honestly am a little fearful for what new fates/dangers/encroachments my son will have to deal with as he gets older.

I often times feel like the true test of parenting won’t be now. It will be when he grows up into a society that has long had the ever-reaching presence of the internet, of social media, of cell phones. The numerous methods and venues that give people the right to think they are absolutely right and the ability to tear apart another, no longer just to their face, to their peers, to their school, but to reach into their very own homes via this technology and create an inescapable prison, one from which so many young people find no escape.

It frightens me. What will he think? How will he handle it? How will I handle it?

All too much:

This stuff is everywhere and I’m just…exhausted by it.

I told my wife that I want to wean myself off of social media because of all this. I tried it, slowly, over the Thanksgiving holiday. When we were at home, my phone sat upstairs in our office while I enjoyed time with her and our little guy. We played, we watched old movies, we laughed, we hugged our cats. I read the newspaper and sipped a great cup of tea while music played on the radio and snow fell outside. I wasn’t posting a million pictures of snow to Facebook and Twitter so people could see that it snowed at our house. Who would care?!

I understand that certain things (the FB page for this blog, the FB page for my comic book, for example) will still require some usage of online and social media for promotion’s sake. Understood. But beyond that, it’s been nice to unplug, even if it was just partially. What a difference it made. We had a wonderful time that did not involve the internet or social media and I absolutely loved it.

To be honest, I felt like a human being again, like those younger, pre-social media days I mentioned.

Yes, I know. I get it. I’m on the internet, writing in a blog about how the internet is sometimes too much for me and can make me fearful for my son’s future. Don’t think that it’s lost on me. It isn’t.

It’s just that I think I have learned how easily we get sucked into this whole other world that’s really quite…artificial.

We start looking at other people’s lives (lives that are manufactured, mind you, as they are choosing exactly what they say, show you for their online presence) and start looking at ours, wondering why they may not be so great. We see the ‘wonderful’ things people are up to and start wondering if we’re missing out on something great instead of seeing how great our own lives are.

I don’t think it has to be that way.

I’m not saying ‘blow up the internet’ or ‘go live in the woods’ (although some days it sounds nice, doesn’t it?). What I’m saying is that I’ve found just how nice, satisfying and happy my life can be when I put the phone away, stop having Facebook open in a web browser tab, or just putting the phone down and out of sight when I come home from work and enjoying the real-life moments going on around me.

Sometimes it can feel like battling an addiction, I admit it, but I really feel like I’m a healthier person for it the more I practice it. It may take some more plugging away, but in time I think I can cut it down to a minimum exposure in my day.

It’s time to re-connect with myself, with my life, and in turn, with my family again. Not a group of people who are made up of people I may know in real life or may have never met. But my real-life, there by my side family.

I’m looking forward to the simplicity, the happiness again.



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