Monday, August 10, 2009

Online before breakfast? New family rituals

My post from OSV Daily Take today:

As soon as I saw "Coffee Can Wait. Day's First Stop Is Online" in today's New York Times, I felt a mix of relief and disappointment. Relief because apparently my family is not unusual in our new and semi-constant quest to be connected to everyone we know via Facbeook, Twitter, email, Instant Messager and Skype, even before we pour that first cup of coffee or pop a piece of bread in the toaster. Disappointment because this new way of life is not necessarily a good way of life. I recognize that even as I pause to check Twitter one more time before bed or to post a status update to Facebook at 5:15 a.m. as I head out the door to yoga class, something that would have seemed insane just a year or so ago.

At our house, you will often find my husband, Dennis, on his iPhone, my son on the laptop, and me on the computer in the family room, all simultaneously. On the weekends, when we don't get the old-fashioned version of the Times, Dennis has the laptop on the kitchen table as he sips coffee. At dinner, if I don't remember to turn down the volume, we can often hear the distracting beeps and dings of various communications being received. Like our telephone rule -- no calls taken during meals no matter what -- we don't check on the latest urgent post from some far-flung Facebook friend, but it still has the ability to cause a minor disruption in kitchen-table conversation.

From today's New York Times:

"In other households, the impulse to go online before getting out the door adds an extra layer of chaos to the already discombobulating morning scramble.

"Weekday mornings have long been frenetic, disjointed affairs. Now families that used to fight over the shower or the newspaper tussle over access to the lone household computer — or about whether they should be using gadgets at all, instead of communicating with one another.

“'They used to have blankies; now they have phones, which even have their own umbilical cord right to the charger,' said Liz Perle, a mother in San Francisco who laments the early-morning technology immersion of her two teenage children. 'If their beds were far from the power outlets, they would probably sleep on the floor.'

"The surge of early risers is reflected in online and wireless traffic patterns. Internet companies that used to watch traffic levels rise only when people booted up at work now see the uptick much earlier.

"Arbor Networks, a Boston company that analyzes Internet use, says that Web traffic in the United States gradually declines from midnight to around 6 a.m. on the East Coast and then gets a huge morning caffeine jolt. “It’s a rocket ship that takes off at 7 a.m,” said Craig Labovitz, Arbor’s chief scientist."
One family in the story opted to go offline on weekends, which is a great idea, although I don't think I could get anyone in my house, except maybe our 4-year-old, to go entire weekends without going online. After all, this has become our primary mode of communication with friends and family. It's part of our jobs. It's part of everyday life now, like it or not.

I think the technology takeover is one reason this non-camping mom has suddenly become interested in heading for the mountains and pitching a tent. To be unplugged and communing with nature and each other without any distractions seems like a dream. Of course, as I write this my husband is posting Facebook status updates from a Boy Scout camp in the woods. It may be a losing battle.

So how do we use technology wisely without letting it become an obsession? Probably the same way we used to rein in TV time when the kids were little, only now the parents need to be reined in too. How are you dealing with the influx of technology into your homes? Share in the comment section so we can all benefit.

To read the full New York Times story, click HERE.

1 comment:

Patrice said...

Finding a balance is tough, especially when I also get a great deal of my work through these new technologies. There is no doubt that I received a couple of assignments because an editor realized I actually checked email at 11 pm and I would be able to handle a story the next day. This happened on more than one occasion.

We. too, have family all in the same room on technology, but at times I wonder how different it is from when my family all sat and read books, magazines or newspapers all at the same time. I find this technology often allows for more interaction. If Bill sees something that he is reading that he likes he IMs the link to me. Charlotte has been known to ask for help with homework throughear IMs as well.

Communication is happening, just at the new pace and in the new ways we have created.

We turn off communication devices at mealtime and during the school year we ask that all computers go off after dinner (except mine). I am not sure that will work as well this year since Charlotte will still have homework after dinner I hear.

We just try to be aware of the use of technology and rein it in when we feel like it is controlling us rather than helping us.