Not too long ago my two youngest daughters were complaining about their brothers and pointed out several things.
When my girls were young they played house, they ran and played outside. They made up games and entertained themselves for hours. While I’ll admit they got into a lot of trouble and scraps, they also learned a few things. Like closet shelves aren’t meant to hold that much weight. They also understood compromise.
Playing house none of them wanted to be the daddy. (They are girls after all.) And none wanted to be the baby. (I think it’s rather telling that my oldest always wanted to be a teenager, my middle daughter was always the mom and my youngest was either a dog or a cat.) So they had to negotiate, either house meant no daddy or baby or they took turns with the dreaded parts. Then my oldest son came along. While he couldn’t walk, they had a real baby to play with, as long as mom was nearby. When he could walk, he was elevated to the part of ‘daddy’, though he can’t remember any of it.
By the time my older boy was three, my girls had out grown playing house. They still spent time outside, but the imagining together stopped, gradually replaced by emersion in good books, emulating me.
I got my first computer when my youngest daughter was a baby, but I bought my first internet capable one when I was pregnant with my oldest son so my boys have never lived in a house without internet access.
Needless to say, they’re wired. Even my older son, who can and does read for pleasure and can write fiction, spends way too much time plugged in. Even time with friends includes computers.
I recently read a “The Kill Zone” blog post by James Scott Bell, in which he quoted Ray Bradbury. The article compared the horrors Bradbury saw as the decline of civilization, the mindless pumping of stimulation, music, into one’s mind without having to think or interact with anyone. Bell wondered what Bradbury would think of our world today, populated by people mindlessly on their tech and not interacting with anyone around them. I’ve also seen pictures tagged “The zombie apocalypse is here”, and it showed a group of people walking down the street while fully engrossed in their screens.
A decade ago when I had to go anywhere and sit and wait for an appointment I might see a few people reading a magazine or the rare book, but that didn’t deter conversations. Occasionally someone would have a phone and they might be in constant banter with someone who wasn’t there, but that was about it.
Nowadays when I have to wait somewhere it’s possible to have a whole waiting room full of people, even kids, so engrossed in their screens they don’t even realize what’s going on around them. Someone actually reading a book is rare and that includes the fact my daughters generally have a book with them. I’ve heard of people texting each other when they’re sitting side by side, or sitting in a restaurant texting other people instead of talking to their dinner companions.
We’re being overrun. In my house we have six laptops, three smartphones and one tablet for just six people. (I’ll admit I own the most, a laptop, a smartphone and the tablet.)
That’s the true apocalypse. Let’s put down the screens and engage, communicate, interact! Now! Stop the zombie take over!