Five boys, middle school aged boys, just walked into the Starbucks I've been sitting at for the past hour. They rode their bikes here, dropping them outside the door, asked for free water, then huddled together and pulled out their phones. All of them.
"Should I post this to my story?" one asks, passing around his phone. One friend says no; the rest yes. He posts, and they all laugh.
They chat, giggle, and, generally, act like a small pack of middle school boys: loud, and fully self absorbed. Just like I did when I was their age.
However, they are also fully different from what I remember because, my friends and I never had phones or social media. In high school, we had pagers. In middle school, we Juno. We were pretty sheltered.
Yet, how quickly we've all adapted. And how quickly we've all bought into the lie.
The lie that everyone around us is as happy as they claim and post, and the lie that we need the likes and hearts and approval from others to feel good about our selves, and our (often) fake lives.
A couple has just walked in - they look to be maybe in their late teens, perhaps early twenties. She opened the door first, placing her sunglasses on her head full of curly brown hair. He soon followed, his face absorbed in his phone. She held the door for him and they both disappeared behind the wall to order their drinks.
When I watch, when I really look around at the people in line at the grocery store, at those shopping, those eating or even driving, I notice that most, and close to all, have their screens out and on. Hardly any of them are sitting there, talking, without their little device of distraction.
I met a friend for brunch this morning and the family of three sitting across from us sat in silence. The husband watched the TV in the corner while the mom and son scanned their phones. In almost 45 minutes, they said hardly a word to each other. Even after the food arrived.
The couple has just left. She carried both drinks; he carried his phone, about a foot from his face. (I swear, I'm not making this up).
This video, suddenly, doesn't seem too far off. Even if it is a bit disturbing.
Middle school boys, boyfriends, or families out for lunch, on their cellphones, doesn't mean they will overlook a stabbing - that's a pretty far jump.
But it does start somewhere. Or rather, it isn't controlled somewhere.
And the easiest, most appropriate place to start, is probably the home.
Our humanity is shrinking.
We no longer have natural "stopping cues" - the ending of a book or news paper or TV show that moves us on to something different, or even, that it's okay and appropriate to put down our phones and see the world, the people, that surrounds us.
So we need to create them on our own.
Alter offers dinner as a possible stopping cue, which I fully accept and agree with, but also struggle with a bit because phones have never been allowed at the table. Ever. So it doesn't really help.
So I am interested in what other have done, how others have consciously protected their home, their family, and their pursuit of conversation.
Screens are miraculous - I too feel that it's true - but they are also dangerous. And they are thieves. They steal the color, the richness, and the interesting from life, and they, ironically, steal the human connection with other humans. They create a distance. And they install a dullness. But only if abused and misused.
If you have a suggestions on how to create natural (or unnatural) stopping cues for screen life, please, share them. I'm sure we would all appreciate a little more sand between our toes and ocean on our feet.
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