Growing up, my mother always took the kitchen phone off of the hook during dinner. It would beep loudly for a minute or so, and then go silent. We would then go around the table and talk about what had happened at school that day, how the Red Sox were doing that week, or what to name the new cat we had rescued from the local shelter. I never understood why my mother always insisted that the phone was off the hook, but 25 years later, I do.
These days, my boyfriend and I have a strict "no phones at the dinner table" rule, which I believe is a direct result of how we both were raised. He has three young children from a previous marriage, and I try to be nothing more than a positive influence in their lives. We want to see them grow up with the same sense of human interaction and bewilderment that we had as children, before iPhones and iPads were invented. The boys still "go outside to play" and build forts in the living room on rainy days. We are, however, realistic to the fact that this is a new age. This is an age of technology, so they are allowed "tech time," but it is limited. We want them to be aware that it exists, but we don't want them dependent on it. Yet.
We live in a world where technology is changing the way our brains work. People do not pick up the phone and call each other anymore. Instead, we shoot that person a text or an email. We know more about each other's lives from Facebook than we do from actually visiting with friends. It is rare that we go more than one hour without checking our phones or email accounts. This sense of constantly needing to monitor our social media outlets has even developed into its own acronym: FOMO, fear of missing out. This feeling is accompanied by an over all sense of anxiety that we are going to miss out on something, which adds to our already stressful lives.
Arianna Huffington's talk at this year's Inbound '13 marketing conference really hit home for me. Her words reassured me that my often confusing, somewhat complex role in these children's lives is indeed a positive one. I am comforted to know that there are still people in this high-tech world, like Arianna, and like my mother, who can still connect on a human level.
As I travel down the uncharted path that is life, I believe that one of the biggest lessons I am learning is that "it can wait." Those emails and Facebook statuses will still be there Monday morning. The experiences that you miss while paying attention to your phone, will not be. It is so crucial that we as human beings stop and take a moment to smell the tulips. It may seem like a simple task, but turning off our phones at the dinner table has really given me a greater appreciation for the people in my life, and I have begun imploring friends to do the same. There is nothing more wonderful in this life than to interact with each other.
It may have confused me as a child, but I now understand fully why it was so important to my mother to always take the phone off the hook.
So boil the water, preheat the oven and fire up the grill -- because tonight's dinner is going to be off the hook!
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