I was recently talking with my controversial friend, Suzanne Venker, also known as the Feminist Fixer. Those words, Feminist Fixer, tell you everything you need to know in terms of controversial. We were discussing how disagreeing in our world today often results in destroyed friendships. For example, take a look at our political parties....we are so divided and worse, angry, downright raging at each other for opposing views. We also discussed how taking a neutral stance about a particular topic is safer and makes one more popular. I have noticed when I have guests on my radio show/podcast, and the topic of device use among our children comes up, an immediate disclaimer comes out of their mouth with a neutral stance as to not appear to parent or kid shame.
I don't believe my realist and extreme views of device use in anyway shame our parenting or suggest that our children's desire to want to have the latest modern toys makes them bad kids. Heck, I don't even attack the innovators who created all of this. I marvel at the brilliance and entrepreneurial spirit the tech giants have mastered. Someone recently even suggested I was a fatalist. That would imply that I'm powerless to change the world. On the contrary, I'll fight to the end and feel confident there will be a positive outcome. I often use my story to empathize with the struggles and concerns parents continue to face as it pertains to safe and intentional interactions with technology. If I have given that impression along the way with my vehement stance, then I have been ineffective in spreading my message. My unapologetic position, inability to be "wishy-washy", and refusal to take a neutral stance on something that is so clear to me, may not make me popular. I've always said, better to be respected than loved.
Let me share my recent reflection. When I first started on my Learn With Moxie journey, I made careful and mindful observations while engaging with society. If I walked into a restaurant, waiting room, lobby, etc.....I would purposefully take note of the lack of engagement. I made it a point to observe my surroundings with the hope of confirming something I knew I would see. Now, I don't have to do that anymore. Whether it's the fact that I'm hard wired to notice it, or if it's simply the fact that it's ubiquitous, I no longer have to intentionally look for it. As a result, I started a business. A business focused on getting our children back in the practice of simple conversation when it is no longer required. I saw the need, went into clinical mode, and attacked what I believe will continue to be a growing problem. However, I wasn't feeling sad...until recently. I don't know why this particular situation affected me the way that it did because I see it all the time, but it did.
I was at one of my daughter's athletic activities. I was in a room with at least 15 other people. Some were fathers and mothers with the younger sibling(s) that had to tag along, some were grandparents, again, with the sibling(s) along for the ride. Some were with little children around age 2 and some were with bigger kids around age 12. They were all sitting at tables, seated right across from one another. I wish I could say one person out of the 15, just one person, was not face down in a screen. Sadly, I cannot share that with you. What hit me in the moment was, gone are the days of sitting around the dinner table as a family like we did in the "old days." Remember that window when if a friend called, 5:00 - 7:00 pm, you had to tell your friend you could call them back after dinner? How about when your parent would say, "who would be calling during the dinner hour?" implying a lack of social graces. Ok, so in the new world, both parents work, athletic organizations have inserted practice times into the family dinner window, parents have to divide and conquer to get each child to their next event, yet, when we finally reach our destination, and we have an opportunity to stop, breathe, and converse with one another, we aren't doing it. While I might not subscribe to it anymore, I understand parents dependence on devices when they need to accomplish something in the home. Whether it's getting the laundry done, cooking a meal, cleaning out the garage, mowing the lawn, whatever the task, I see how parents rely on these devices to have occupied children in order to complete those various tasks. What I saw in this moment was lost time. We are losing time. What could have been a conversation about how the day went, a discussion about an upcoming event you might be excited about, going over the fast approaching, crazy weekend schedule, ANYTHING,,,,, but instead, I was watching a clock tick away. We are losing time with one another and it breaks my heart. Even I, someone who makes it my business to focus on connecting, communicating, conversing, hadn't truly had that emotional epiphany of lost time.
So, am I a realist? Yes. Are my views extreme? Yes, but not confounded. Should I take a neutral stance to play it safe and make things less uncomfortable? Absolutely not, because someone has to remind us all.....the clock is ticking. Time and tide wait for no man. And in this moment, I think I discovered a new mantra for my crusade..... We are going to have to start talking to #keeptalking.