Smartphone Revolution

. February 21, 2014.
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I was late to the iPhone revolution.

When I first started working for newspapers, we had landlines and, if we were lucky, pagers. The problem was if we got paged we still had to find a phone to call the office. Then I got a bag phone – the size of a small carry-on with an antenna that went on top of the car. Yeah, I was cutting edge, as long as I was in my car.

Over the years, however, advances in mobile communications passed me by. I was content with my “dumb” phone until it broke, and I needed a new one. My new phone had a QWERTY keyboard which made texting a snap. Texting was the gateway
drug into wanting a smartphone. I finally got an iPhone this past summer, nearly six years to the day after the first iPhone release in 2007. I was quickly addictedto responding to emails on the run, checking Facebook in the checkout line, and all the other stuff that really could wait until I got home.

Smartphones multiply

Soon my teenager had a smartphone. And my pre-teen had my old iPod. On recent trips back home to New York I teased my daughters and my nieces that it was nice they were spending quality time together – all four of them in the living room staring at tiny screens. I lectured them about how important it is to come up for air from the Internet, and felt a little smug knowing that my generation actually talked to one another.

That smugness only lasted until I realized that at home we also sit together only to access the outside world through the internet. And I am one of the worst offenders.

It was a rare night off from extra-curricular activities and we were sitting in the living room. I was on my phone, my teenager was on her phone (and listening to her iPod – a two-fer!) and the youngest was playing a game on her iPod. We were in the same room, but not communicating despite – or, rather, because of – our devices. Even my husband walked in and commented that we were spending time together apart.

Time together, apart

That resonated with me. In only four years my oldest daughter will be away at college. When that happens, those devices
will be a critical way to keep in touch. Until then, I don’t want them to get in the way of actual communication.

So I have tried to stop being a slave to my phone. Sometimes I let the call go to voicemail. I ignore the obnoxious text tone that demands my attention. I stay away from the little number next to the Facebook or email icon, knowing that it can wait.

What can’t wait is helping with homework, hearing about how a rehearsal went or listening to someone talk about her day. I never ignored those things before, but now I try to be more present. These children will leave me one day, as they are supposed to. We can Facetime, text and call, a blessing of the modern age that will be welcome. But it won’t be the same.

I have noticed my daughters sometimes following suit. The oldest will put her phone on the shelf and play a board game with her younger sister, or sit next to me on the couch and talk. The youngest will want to go play outside, or bake cookies.

Sure, there are times all three of us get buried in our beeping boxes. But hopefully I have set a good example to “do as I do, not as I say”. Technology is wonderful,and can bring people who live far away closer. I want to make sure it doesn’t drive apart people who live in the same house.

And maybe that’s the next revolution
– taking back family time from those beeping boxes.