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Mansfield Magazine

Is Technology to Blame for Emotional Barriers?

Apr 06, 2013 08:25AM ● By Kristen Lamb

We have all been there. In a restaurant where people are texting instead of talking. They tweet and Facebook and seem to be lost in the digital world instead of participating in the real one. Many writers (and people) are skeptical of social media and technology. We've all been with that person who can't stop chatting on the phone long enough to actually engage in the real-life conversation. Yet, is technology to blame for the emotional distance?

I never really knew my father, particularly in my early years. He left for work before I was even awake and frequently came home just in time for dinner. Then he would read for hours and say three words to us kids. We knew better than to interrupt him watching TV or reading his latest paperback. And my dad easily read three books a week. I think part of the reason I loved books as a child was I wanted some way to connect to my father.

My grandfather worked all the time. He was gone on the road most of the year. When he was home, he was immersed in a newspaper or any number of sports on the television. Baseball, basketball, football, fishing, golf all the time. Silence. No conversation. It might interrupt the crossword puzzle. My dad had tried to connect to his father for many years, but his father was too busy with his company. Probably why my father sought escape in fiction. His brother took refuge in sports and the youngest immersed himself in D&D and later video games.

When I did get to talk to my grandfather, I learned that his father was a minister and farmer. Too busy writing sermons, planting, caring for the community to really be engaged. Work was the only time there was a semblance of connection. Maybe this is why my grandfather looked to work for solace.

And the females of my family were equally distant. My grandmother was busy cooking, the other grandmother too busy cleaning. My mom and aunts would shuffle us outside as soon as the cartoons ended so they could clean, organize, wallpaper, sew or talk over coffee.

When I was in college, I finally gave up visiting a long-time friend. She would invite me over for a visit and then spend the entire time on the phone while I twiddled my thumbs and wondered why I was there.

Thus, I am no stranger to having to compete with "things" for attention. Whether it was work, chores, books, papers, sewing machines, games or television, barriers have always been a part of life. So have poor manners.

I don't know. Maybe the problem is more prevalent these days. Maybe my family is the odd duck.

Part of why I work so hard at teaching WANA ways is that, if technology is going to be an integral part of our culture, then we have a choice HOW we use the tool. We can use it to unplug from the human experience and drift along on auto-pilot, or we can actively resist our nature and use the same tools to become more involved in others. We can use technology to connect, laugh, love and offer support.

What are your thoughts? Is technology the problem? Is it how we are handling the technology? What are your frustrations? Do you find technology has helped you be closer to others, or that it's become a barrier? Are you like me and grew up competing with television, phones and sports?

I love hearing from you!

(Above image via Pink's Galaxy Flikr Commons)

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