We live at the greatest time in terms of technology. Unlike my children, who were essentially born wired, I am middle-aged enough to remember asking for my first date by actually telephoning the girl and having to sit in the kitchen, no more than 3 feet from the wall, talking to her while watching one of the 5 channels on the old black and white. As a lawyer, I have been in the game long enough to remember when being out of the office meant I really was unreachable unless I called in for messages. I recall dreading the return to the office after several days in court because there would no doubt be a stack of pink slips with names and numbers written on them, every one of them expecting to hear from me. I recall when needing to review case law meant a trip to the nearest courthouse or law school law library.
Coming of age at a time when even this generation’s oldest, slowest technology would have seemed positively Jetsonian, I am absolutely in love with the new technology. Using these new tools efficiently and ensuring I maintain control over the technology, as opposed to allowing it to control me, means that I need not spend as many hours in the office tied to my desk as in past years yet can accomplish significantly more without sacrificing quality. It means being able to take a month long vacation in the summer (as I did in 2010 and 2011) or a series of week long vacations throughout the year (as I am doing this year) without returning to reams of correspondence and hours of calls.Being connected briefly first thing in the morning or right before bed while on an extended holiday literally anywhere in the world allows me to stay on top of anything urgent and quickly dispose of the daily minutiae. This guarantees my relaxation for the rest of the day in order to get the most out of my holiday, all the while knowing that no emergencies or mountains of paper will greet me upon my return. Similarly, my smartphone allows me to leave the office early or come in late so I do not have to miss my kids’ 10am school assemblies, their important mid-day doctor appointments or early evening extracurriculars. My less than 3lb laptop has the same files and resources as if I were in the office, thus allowing me to be productive without the pre-tech advancement concerns for either geography or time of day.. The ability to connect even when I’m on the go means, quite simply, more balance in my life rather than less.
That said, the primary downside to our constantly wired-in society is not, as some believe, the increasing blur between our work and personal lives. Rather, it is that many folks constantly miss The Moment. Now, I am not referring to Dad sitting on the sidelines on a Tuesday night in May watching Junior’s soccer game while answering business emails or taking the odd client call. Without the Blackberry he might still be in the office instead of at his little one’s game. No, I am speaking of the non-business, non-urgent obsessive use of one’s smartphone to document, photograph, post, text and tweet their minute by minute POV, their every whim of a hair of a thought, the constant broadcasting of split second updates of what is happening where THEY are. Because of course, if THEY are here and you’re not, then it’s YOU who must be missing out on something really big. This idea that everyone is the star of their own reality show, quite aside from the inevitable prevailing narcissism and potential dumbing down of our society as we focus inward rather than outward, is creating a society of individuals that no longer knows how to enjoy the moment. I am not criticizing the tweens and teens who grew up sucking the teat of the tech goddess, but the actually grown up, with serious careers and good parenting skills. Fine individuals who used to live for The Moment. Now they don’t consider any moment to have occurred unless there is digital proof. These are the very individuals who should most know how to be Present, but who are sadly and quickly losing (or forgetting) the capacity for real experiences which make you FEEL, deep down in your soul.
Recently I took my youngest son to see the live stage version of How to Train Your Dragon at the Air Canada Center. My son thoroughly enjoyed the show. I had the distinct pleasure only a parent knows of watching him watch the show. And I think he really wanted to see me having fun too, for he kept enquiring to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. But the woman in front of me with her two kids (all of them perfectly nice, happy, well adjusted) spent the entire show, and I do mean the entire show, photographing and videoing the show on her iphone, getting her kids to pose in front of the camera with the show as mere backdrop for what she surely thought was an Annie Leibovitz moment. But Mom, while capturing, documenting, texting, and uploading all 2 hours of her time at the arena that night missed out on the most important thing- the sheer immersion in The Moment with her children. Sadly, before long, her kids will be grown and while she will have the 2 dimensional photographs to keep her company, these cannot compare with the 3 dimensional experiences of being in The Moment and the deeply nuanced memories created as a result.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against taking pictures. I am perpetually nose in Blackberry. I love Facebook and Twitter and I anxiously anticipate the next arc in the digital/technological trajectory. But certain experiences are best enjoyed merely with the senses that Mother Nature bestowed upon us.
We must continue to use the technology to enhance our lives. But we must also be on guard against the same technology preventing an otherwise wonderful experience- that of just being in The Moment.