Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back to the future

Amy Chodroff and I had a radio conversation this past week (KLIF, Dallas, TX) with a man who proposes we all learn to disconnect from our social gadgets just one day a week. Think about that: no Facebook, no Twitter, no My Space, no Google Plus, no Instagram, no Pinterest, no e-mail, no texting, no nothing:

Just you and the people you can see in real time and space.

I remember decades ago, before Cyber World Genesis, when people were making similar suggestions about technologies and social habits that would seem quaint to us now. "Turn off the TV one night a week", they said. "Get reacquainted with your family. Talk about your day. Play a board game. Make popcorn."

It really does sound nice, doesn't it? It assumes Mom, Dad and the kids are going to have a joyous, mirth filled evening of love and bonding.

From my own childhood in the sixties I can remember the social psychologists urging families to always eat dinner together at the table. It suggested we strive for TV family perfection. Dad would be there smiling in his sweater and tie, Mom would be fresh as a daisy after a day spent driving a vacuum and an iron and then wrangling dinner in the kitchen. We could have funny conversations like the Cleaver family.

It all sounds wonderful but what I remember from my real life family dinners is complaints about the food, being scolded for the griping, Dad grousing about some idiot at work and dear Mom trying to hold it all together. Not always, of course, but often enough that I learned early that nostalgia isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Like it or not, family and social dynamics change with culture which is largely driven by technology.

Nobody sends handwritten letters anymore. Gone are the summer nights on a blanket in the front yard together watching the stars come out. Rocking chairs on the front porch over a pitcher of lemonade and shared tales of greater glories past are the stuff of fanciful memory and our social fabric.

It's good to remember the past but a terrible mistake to try to live there.

I think I may give this disconnecting idea a shot, occasionally. But I'm not going to stress about it.


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