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Gizmos Down

Are Our Devices Liberating or Destroying Real Communication?


   On a recent popular American sitcom there was a scene of a family around the breakfast table. The mom had prepared a family favorite of hot pancakes and was serving them to her three adolescent kids and husband. All three kids and the husband were busy texting, surfing or calling at the breakfast table as the mom proudly served the delicious meal. Even with the steaming dish being presented, the mom could not get the attention of anyone at the table. In her exasperation, she screams the order: “gizmos down”. The rest of the episode centered on a contest the family had in going cold turkey off electronics. The last one to use a device won the contest and got a prize.

   Statistics show that 89% of modern western households own multiple cell phones used for calling, texting and internet. The average teenager sends or receives on average nearly 100 text messages per day or nearly 3,000 per month. These numbers are staggering, and the ways our families communicate today have changed more than any generation to date.

   Laptops, desktops, notebooks, hand-held devices, cell phones…are our ‘devices’ liberating or destroying real communication in our culture?

   We can argue that more and quicker communication is beneficial. We can quickly get our kids to respond to a text; ‘where are you, are you OK’? That is good and reassuring to know. We can get instant weather or know if the danger of a storm is present in a flash. We can get a score, some news, or make an appointment in seconds.

   But have we lost the collective ability to write and speak in whole sentences with depth, meaning and quiet thoughtfulness? The art of letter writing is quickly dying. We are immortalizing emotional and regretful thoughts in texts and Facebook posts. Some teens have their lives destroyed over inappropriate digital photos that go viral. Some adults lose jobs or friends by discussing sensitive matters of a job in social media.

   How can we utilize, yet temper technology and its awesome power of instant communication without losing the intimacy of quiet personal chats with family and friends. How can we retain the ability to read and write with depth and meaning and not ‘lol’ ourselves to death?

   Maybe we need to take the advice of the sitcom mom. We need to declare times of ‘gizmos down’. Places like the breakfast or dinner table need to remain sanctuaries where families meet and talk without phones or devices. We can also set times where we go for walks or sit on the porch and leave the gizmos behind and share openly about our day.

   Making our kids write letters in long hand and thank you notes is a great way to preserve the most intimate communication, a heartfelt, handwritten note.

   But I suppose it is better to get an ‘I luv u’ text from a child than not to hear from them at all. So let’s keep all our devices; but let’s set real rules and boundaries that preserve the intimacy of old fashion communication.  

I would say more on this subject, but ‘i hv 2 go’. Gizmos up. Luv u!!

Joe Turnham has gained a national reputation both as a political figure and tier-one consultant to a myriad of clients. Joe’s services are in demand nationally as a consultant, speaker, political advisor and commentator. Click here to learn more about Joe.

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