In the age of technology, screens, and devices, I aspire to choose my fellow human beings. I aspire to be present with them, to give them my listening eyes and ears, to prioritize them before my macbook and smart phone.
“Aspire” is the operative word here. I’ve failed to fulfill this endeavor on more occasions than I’d like to admit. To make matters worse, it’s often with my family, the human beings I love most.
Exhibit A: I’m on the computer. My husband enters the room; we start a conversation. Somewhere in the conversation, I get this overwhelming impulse to return to what I was doing. I do not or cannot stop myself, and my attention averts to the screen. Depending on the circumstances of the conversation, my husband will: (a) walk out of the room, and it’s not a big deal; (b) say, “Never mind, I can see that you’re distracted”; (c) get angry. In case of the latter two, I’m quick to acknowledge and correct my behavior. I know that I’m not altogether oblivious or a total lost cause here. To be fair, I don’t do this all the time, and I feel conscious of my shortcoming. It’s just that I need the reminders, to be retaught (or rewired?), and I wish that I didn’t.
Exhibit B: My son and I are playing together. He wanders off and occupies himself with a toy. I watch him for a minute. Then the familiar urge arrises to slip my phone out from my back pocket. And, there I am: checking emails, news headlines, and sending texts. My son appears in front of me, just beyond the screen. He has brought something he wants to share with me. “Hang on, Boo Boo,” I say as I finish my text. I can’t help but feel that two messages have been sent. The one to my friend and the one that my son receives: smart phones are of the highest importance. I cringe at the thought. I attempt to hide my phone from myself. It doesn’t work, at least not for the long haul.
I know intellectually and with my heart that these moments matter, and how I choose to live in these moments matters a lot. I believe that I don’t want these devices to take precedence over my family. Yet, I see myself acting in ways that say otherwise. Is it as simple as setting a hard and fast rule for myself? Maybe. But something tells me that it’s more complicated.