Hey, “Look Up” video dude…Back Away From My iPhone! (In defense of social media)

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Hello dear readers. This one has been brewing for a while and I just can’t keep myself from writing it today. So, instead of working on my book, like a good girl, I’m getting on a little bit of a soap box.

I’m sick of basically being told that because I use my smartphone regularly and I engage in social media, I don’t know how to communicate or connect and I don’t have real friendships and if I let my kids use smartphones they won’t play outside ever again and my son may never meet the wife he’s destined for because he found directions on his smartphone instead of being lost and asking a pretty girl on the street for directions and I could go on and on and on. Enough already! (Yes, I’m aware that was a very long run-on sentence. I’ve obviously forgotten all grammar rules because I text so often.)

There’s a viral video circulating social media this week called, “Look Up.” It’s cleverly written and shot. It’s a beautiful video, actually. I even agree with some of the things that the author is saying (I love smartly written things). I respect that the point being made is to encourage people to interact face-to-face. I do think that is a valid point.

But overall, I think most of the arguments put forth in the video are emotionally manipulative, logically flawed and one-sided. I get why it’s appealing and I understand why so many people are sharing it, but I resent the manipulation. And the irony? It’s had over 30 million views in a week. The video telling us all to put down our phones and close our computers has had over 30 million views on phones and computers. Come on. That is funny. (It even appears to be monetized which is even more ironic! But also, good business ;))

So, this video was the tipping point for me writing this post. But it’s not the only reason. This post comes from personal conversations, articles I’ve read and even a speaker I heard at a conference a few weeks ago. (I’ll get to him in a minute.)

First, I will say that YES, moderation is needed. If you are addicted to your phone, can’t put it down for the span of a meal, have convulsions if you forget it at home, check Facebook 100 times a day…well then maybe there’s a 12 step program you should check out. I’ve personally tried to be more cognizant of when I pull my phone out and when I should leave it in my purse. But in general, I don’t think our “display” (be it phone, computer, iPad, whatever) is ruining our lives or our ability to communicate. I think, if used properly, our displays can enhance our lives, increase our communication and our community.

If you are not communicating because you are so wrapped up in Candy Crush…well, that’s on you and you should definitely seek some reprieve, or a dentist or something. But, for the most part, I think people who are on their phones “too much” are still communicating. It’s just a different kind of communication than what the previous generation had, so it’s automatically misunderstood and looked down upon.

(Read this in the same voice that says, “In my day, we walked to school…uphill, both ways.”) : “In my day, we didn’t type at people on our phones, we actually called them on the phone and talked to them.” 

Congratulations.

I, for one, hate talking on the phone. I have four kids and I think some time around their first birthdays, a Telephone Radar Fairy snuck into their rooms at night and implanted a chip that told them exactly when I was just starting a phone conversation.

I could be two floors away from them, but as soon as that conversation got started, everyone suddenly neeeeeded me. Like now. Like “my arm is falling off, mom. How can you be on the phone at a time like this?”

Not to mention that I’m ADD and can do almost nothing else while I’m on the phone because I have to use every ounce of my concentration or I’ll get distracted by something shiny and miss what’s being said.

So, I grew to hate phone conversations. When email became a “thing” I was ecstatic. I could respond to phone calls via email at midnight (when it would not be acceptable to call) or during the day in the midst of two children having an epic battle over who’s chair it is. No one on the other end of that email would hear my children screaming while pushing each other off said chair, or me yelling back or anything like that. It was blissful.

Then, enter texting. “Hallelujah…Hallelujah…” (you can do the whole chorus in your head right now if you like. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

So, texting. It’s like Al Gore  someone invented this just for me. Because they knew that I love staying in touch with people but I hate talking on the phone and writing letters. Texting is a stay-at-home or work-from-home mom’s sanity sometimes. (Not even going to get into how convenient it is for getting quick answers to questions, etc. There’s so much I could say on that…but I digress…)

I have funny friends and I love getting random funny texts throughout the day. It makes me feel…wait for it…connected. Social media does the same thing. For a mom with young children who doesn’t get to leave home very often, Facebook can be a lifeline, making her feel like she’s still connecting with people. I reject the notion that it’s not a real connection. I think that it’s all in how you use it and in choosing (as with just about anything) not to abuse it. I also respect that it’s not for everyone. And not everyone likes to text. That’s cool too. But for me, they are fabulous tools.

For example, I have a very close friend named Karen, from when I lived in Virginia, almost twenty years ago. Over the years, we’ve stayed in touch. But neither of us are good at phone calls or letters. So it was maybe once every four years or so that we’d see each other with hardly any communication in-between other than the yearly Christmas letters that we both usually got sent out by January 15th.

Then, about five years ago, I ran into her on a business trip and pleaded with her to get on Facebook because I’d found it to be such a great way to keep in touch with out of town friends. So, she signed up that week, and not only has it been wonderful to see each other’s kids as they grow and hear what’s going on in each other’s lives, it’s actually caused us to physically connect way more often. I think we’ve seen each other every single year since we connected on Facebook. And our kids have connected as well and become friends as a result.

Without social media, I don’t think that would have happened. I actually have several close friends that have moved away and I am able to stay in touch, thanks to texting and Facebook. I am so thankful for that.

Some would argue that I am able to balance screen time with face-to-face connection because I didn’t grow up with smartphones and iPads, so I learned those skills before the advent of mobile tech. But that this generation doesn’t know how to have a face-to-face conversation because they’ve grown up with their faces in a screen. I’m quite sure that’s true of some kids. But it’s not true across the board. Not even close.

I look at my four kids, ages 9-19. Very different personalities and very different ways of communicating. All of them have had liberal access to screens and displays and technology of varying types. All of them had the means to be staring at a screen all day long. (However, if they did that, I would cut them off. Moderation, right?) Here’s the thing. Three of them are pretty good at face-to-face conversations (two of them really excel at it). And one is pretty terrible at it. So, if the reason for his lack of communication skills is screen time, it would make sense that he would be glued to an iPod or something, right?

Nope. He doesn’t spend nearly the amount of time in front of a screen as some of the others. It’s just his personality. He’s an introvert. He doesn’t come by conversation naturally, especially with new people. It’s something we’re working on and it will take time but he will probably never be someone who loves to sit and chat. I’m okay with that, because we don’t all have to fit into an extroverted mold.

He may not be chatty, but he spends hours drawing cartoon characters and he loves doing it. For his ninth birthday, he wanted charcoal pencils and sketch pads. I love that he’s developing a skill and that he gets genuinely excited to show us his creations. And guess who taught him to draw?

The internet.

He looks up “how to draw” videos on YouTube and learns it on his own. Is it bad that he’s learning from a screen? The logic of some of the arguments out there would be, “Yes, because it deprives him of the connection he would have with an actual teacher. Someone who sat with him and showed him how to draw.”

Maybe, except that would never have happened. It’s not an either/or. I wouldn’t have hired an art teacher to come to my home and teach him how to draw Phineas and Ferb. So, I’m thankful for the screen time he’s put in, learning how to draw. I think it has enriched his life.

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Patient reader, already this post is waaaay longer than I wanted it to be. But I’m not quite done. So, if your blood sugar is low and you need a snack or if you need to check your email and come back, feel free. I’m gonna finish soon. I promise.

I was at a conference a few weeks ago and the keynote speaker was a very well known basketball coach. He had some excellent stuff to say and I was captivated by his talk. But he lost me at one point. The minute he said, “People don’t know how to communicate anymore,” my radar went up. I knew what was coming. “Everyone’s on their phones, all the time. It’s terrible. I saw a family sitting at a table in a restaurant and the parents were on their phones the whole time. They didn’t communicate at all.”

First, he has no idea why they were on their phones or if they actually know how to communicate. It’s simply a judgement made by a judgmental person. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard that kind of judgement. I just read something yesterday pleading with moms on playgrounds to put down their phones and pay attention to their kids. Sounds nice at face value but again, it’s really just ignorant judgment. I’m impressed that the moms took their kids to the play ground, in the first place. They’re already better moms than me! Haha.

Are there people who should learn to put their phones down and engage with the people in front of them? Sure. Are there people who are rude and don’t pay attention when they should? Heck yeah. Does it mean we’ve lost the ability to communicate. No. That’s absurd. Smart phones didn’t invent rude people. They were probably rude before, too.

So, back to the speaker, I was irritated by his line of reasoning but I got really annoyed when he said this, “Parents, don’t text your children. Pick up the phone and call them!”

The assumption being that his way (calling) is superior to texting. That calling is communication and texting is not. I mean no disrespect, but that is just ignorant. Texting IS communication. My relationship with my teens is enhanced by the fact that we text each other. Again, it’s not an either/or concept. My kids tell me things via text that we would probably never get to if they had to call me or tell me in person. My relationship with my daughter improved greatly when she got a phone and we started texting. Our communication increased. So, the texting isn’t replacing our face to face interaction. It’s adding to it. Sorry Coach…you’re just plain wrong on this one. I call a foul.

To sum up, rather than dropping the smartphone in the recycle bin, I think people should really just take some personal responsibility and use their screens wisely. If you have children and you feel they aren’t learning to communicate because they’re playing Minecraft, then by all means, take the iPod away. You are the one with the power, so use it.

But we shouldn’t make blanket statements like, “People don’t know how to communicate anymore.” It’s all the rage to say that. It’s vogue to dis the smartphone. But the reality is that the technology and social media aren’t going away. They’re going to evolve but they’re not going away. So instead of complaining about it, we should just learn to use them in a responsible way.

Okay, I’ve been in front of my screen for two hours now and three friends are joining me for lunch. So, I’m going to close my computer and connect. But I’m glad we’ve had a little time to connect here on my blog. Me and you, my lovely reader. Thanks for stopping by. And as always…I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

P.S. I read this to my friends at lunch and one of them suggested that I do a video blog for this post, so people can hear my tone and expression, because much of it is meant to be funny and that comes across when I read it. She said it would help those, like her, who don’t catch all that when they read. I have never done a video blog (don’t really care to have people looking at me) but I’d love your opinion. If you’d like to see me try something like that, let me know 🙂

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Listen Beyond the Words (Five Minute Friday)

A peaceful Sunday morning coffee had turned into an unpleasant argument. My hubby and I are very excited about the prospect of removing the ugly dog fence that adorns the back of our home and turning the space into a lovely patio. We’ve been here, in our first house, for about 9 years. And that eye-sore out my back window has always bugged me.

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For years I’ve pictured a sweet little love seat on my patio, where I can sit in the morning and read my Bible in peace. A cozy chair I can curl up in, with a blanket in the evening, reading a new novel…maybe a string of Christmas lights for ambiance.

 

So, when hubby handed me the Sunday Paper circular ad, pointing to the patio furniture section, I dove in. He pointed out a pretty table and chair set and I pointed to the picture next to it. A “conversation set” complete with two chairs, coffee table and a love seat.

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That’s when it started.

“We don’t need that. We need a table,” he said, in a very dude-ish, matter of fact way.

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Huh?

I answered in a calm voice, “Well, if I had to choose, I’d keep using this old table and get a conversation set.” It just made the most sense to me. We already had a table, even if it wasn’t pretty…it was functional. And the love seat set cost a couple hundred less than the dining set. I should get points for that!

 

But he didn’t budge. He said we’d have no place to store it. We didn’t need it just because our friends had one. On and on it went until I “gave up” and said…not so sweetly…and quite sarcastically, “Fine, pick whatever you want since I’m sure you will be the one out there the most.” I picked up my coffee, my computer and stormed away. In a huff. Like a two-year old.

 

Then, as I obsessively scrubbed my kitchen counters, just for something to take my frustration out on, I began to think it through. My husband is a loving guy. Why is he not listening to me? But I realized I wasn’t trying to listen to him, either. It came down to the story beyond the words (as it usually does). I had been planning what I wanted on that patio for years. But I’d never shared that with him. And vice versa. He likes to entertain…to have people over for dinner. So he’s been picturing a nice large table where we can sit with friends, having dinner…a glass of wine…and maybe play a card game or two. But he had never shared that with me. His rational thoughts were hidden behind quick, dismissive words.

 

When I realized all this, I apologized to him for my huff and he apologized for being dismissive. I learned I was right about what he wanted and why and I explained to him that I had been thinking about a set like that for years.

I’ve thought about this more in the last week. How many times do tempers flare in relationships because we aren’t listening to the heart that’s behind the words? Because we’re not bothering to listen to the true story that’s found beyond the words?  I’m trying to be more careful about really listening to what is motivating my family members when they act out. And I’m learning to better communicate what I’m feeling as well.

 

In the end, I decided he was right; we should get the dining set.

 

And he decided I was right; we should get the conversation set.

 

He “won.” And so did I.

(I’ll update with a picture when the project is done :))

Click here for the UPDATE: One month later…

 

 

This post was inspired by Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday prompt word: Listen. I’m usually very strict with myself about the five minutes. But today, that timer went off and I was only half-way through the story. So…this is more of a ten minute post. (Sorry Lisa-Jo!) If you’d like to join the hundreds of bloggers who participate in Five Minute Friday each week, click here for the details. It’s a blast…join us!!

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Are You Speaking the Wrong Language?

When Emily was a child her dad traveled the world for business. But he always brought her something unique from each trip. He would search the markets for the thing that reminded him most of the daughter he missed. When he’d arrive home he’d ask her all about what she’d done while he was gone, he’d tell her how proud he was of her and he’d present her with her newest exotic gift. Emily felt that her dad loved her more than anyone in the world. 

Nate had trouble falling asleep as a little boy. So one day his mom had him lie on his tummy and she rubbed his little back hoping to relax him and coax his eyes shut. It worked! He was asleep within minutes and this became a nightly ritual. 
Fast forward twenty years. Emily and Nate have been married for a year now and both are wondering if they’ve made a mistake. 
Emily tells her best friend, “I’m not even sure if he loves me. He never brings me any presents even though I bring him stuff all the time. He doesn’t even appreciate it! So I get upset and then he has the nerve to rub my shoulders!? I know what that’s code for…and it ain’t happenin!”
Nate tells his dad, “I have no idea what she wants, dad. I try to do things around the house to make her happy. I try to rub her shoulders every night to help her relax. Nothing satisfies her!”
This fictional little story demonstrates a very common miscommunication in all kinds of relationships. It’s a problem with love languages. I haven’t read the book in at least fifteen years, but I will always remember the impact that “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman had on me and my marriage. Mr. Chapman says that there are five different “love languages” that people speak: (For more detailed descriptions click here.)
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

In the story, Emily felt loved through Receiving Gifts and Words of Affirmation while Nate felt loved by Physical Touch and Acts of Service. Neither felt the other was being loving toward them because rather than showing love the way their partner received it, they were using their own love language to show that they loved the other. I’ve seen this happen in real life and it’s so sad because both people are actually trying really hard yet both are frustrated and feeling unloved. However, the solution isn’t difficult. It’s just a matter of figuring out which love languages make you feel loved and sharing that with your spouse, friend, sister, etc. And vise versa.

Have you ever experienced the kind of miscommunication I described? Do you know what your love languages are? Do you know what your spouse’s are? Your kid’s? It’s really worth looking into. If you click here, you can take a love language survey for free. I hope it helps you like it’s helped me!

Love,

rebekah

 

 

Photo of father and daughter from: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1118452

Photo of mother and son from: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/958366

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