Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Unplugging & Tuning In To Each Other

Today we have a guest blogger, a fellow writer, Melissa Knights Bertrand.  In the interest of full disclosure, I work with Melissa's brother, Aaron Knights, and through being Facebook friends with Aaron, I am familiar with Melissa's writing for her local newspaper, The Buffalo News.

Melissa is the mother of three young and dynamic children and she has a beautiful writing style.  I have no idea where she finds the time to reflect and write about the unique things that happen to her and her children, but she does, and we are happy readers because of it.
Two stories she previously wrote that I shared on Cry, Laugh, Heal were Melissa's story about the memorial walk/run that was established a little over a decade ago to honor and support the memory of Melissa and Aaron's Dad who lost his fight with cancer (December 2012) and another story Melissa wrote in July 2012 about a handwritten letter from her Dad being a timeless memento (July 2012).
Today Melissa writes about the cellphones, iPads, iPods and Blackberry devices which are everywhere whether we like it or not.  Yes, these devices can improve the amount and the speed with which we receive  information from one another but that doesn't mean that we should use them 24/7 with no regard for others. 
We can't let electronic devices replace our much needed human connection.  I'm not talking about the casual and annoying connection I get when I am in the check-out line at the grocery store and I get to hear the conversation of the person behind me with their spouse or friend that gives me WAY more details about their life than I ever wanted to know.
I talking about the connection between people who care about each other or who are trying to be polite with each other.  Nothing can replace a face-to-face conversation.  That is when we look into another person's eyes and see the true meaning of their words, hear their tone of voice and pick up on the gestures they use to communicate with us.
And don't forget about quiet time.  No chirping, no tweeting, no loud and sudden ringtones.  No electronics is quiet time.  No electronic is healing time.  A time to myself, when I can think, when I can read, when I can breathe.
Off is not a permanent state.
You can always turn them back on.

Don’t Let Electronics Replace Real Interaction
By Melissa Knights Betrand
The Buffalo
March 29, 2013

Melissa Knights Betrand

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” –Albert Einstein

After weeks of Christmas prep, school functions and charity projects, I scheduled a little “me” time late one afternoon and snuck out for a quick mani/pedi.

Armed with my cellphone, I looked forward to a full hour plus of Words with Friends, reading email and replying to day(s) old texts and Facebook messages. As I surrendered my hands to the angel before me, I had an experience that stopped me in my technological tracks. Another escapee, in full wet-nail mode, took an incoming call on her cellphone and proceeded to have a personal conversation … via speaker phone!

I listened to her chat with her hubby about whether she had picked up the raspberries and where they should meet to exchange cars, among other things. No shame or whispering that she would call back in a few minutes. They had an entire conversation, complete with irritated voices, and never a mention that he was conversing in front of an audience.

Upon reflection, I feel compelled to throw the tiniest of pebbles from my little glass house by proclaiming that I do believe cellphones and iPods are adding tremendous stress to our lives, destroying manners and short-circuiting the properly developed social skills of children at tender, young ages.

Look around any public place, from waiting rooms to restaurants, and you will be hard-pressed not to see most everyone with some sort of handheld electronic device. Instead of talking to one another, the world has become programmed to expect, demand even, instant gratification, often mistaking immediate electronic feedback for true connection and authentic relationships.

For many, this begins well before basic social skills and manners have been age-appropriately and fully developed.

Consequently, the unfiltered thoughts and knee-jerk reactions of children and adults can and do go far beyond what is typical of face-to-face interactions, often wounding, leaving scars and causing social repercussions that are sometimes irreparable.

As the mother of one teenage son and twin “tweenage” girls, the introduction of cellphones and iPods – which are thinly veiled iPhones when connected to Wi-Fi – into our household has added a heaping dose of drama and nearly driven me crazy.

Though these devices do entertain and make communication a breeze, I find myself in an almost constant policy-making position; policing, paring down usage and eventual docking times and locations almost daily.

In the midst of this madness, I’ve discovered that when infractions occur which result in the loss of electronic privileges, my children (after a period of withdrawal) become softer, nicer human beings who actually play and interface the good, old-fashioned way. Imagine that? I now find myself actually looking for reasons to take them away and, at times, I think they are as relieved as I am.

I must confess that what began as an attachment to my cellphone has blossomed into a full-blown love/hate relationship, causing me to evaluate even my own behavior. I am striving to walk the talk, however, and have begun to set firm boundaries about when I will and won’t let the demands of the outside world into my present personal time and relationships. Though I am a work in progress, the results continue to be eye-opening and have convinced me that we should all try a little harder to keep technology in its proper place.

If we strive to power down our electronic addictions, humanity just may prevail.

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