Connected Disconnect


This weekend, my wife and I enjoyed a weekend away in Franklin, TN. While out to eat for Sunday brunch, I noticed something that really got under my skin.

At the restaurant, there were — as you could imagine — several tables with large, multigenerational families enjoying brunch after church. At many of these tables, the kids weren’t talking with their parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents, however.

They were glued to iPod touches.

Some of the older adults seemed uncomfortable about this, but the kids’ parents seemed just fine with their children wearing earbuds, munching on bread, not talking with their elders.

After complaining about this to my wife, I noticed that the groups of people waiting to be seated where doing the same thing — sharing a moment, in silence, tapping away on their phones.

Get Off my Lawn

Now, I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to the second situation. Real-life conversation isn’t always for me, and as a nerd, I find solace in the soft glow of my phone’s screen.

That said, my wife and I don’t let our almost-three-year-old have any alone time with our iPod touch or my iPhone. While he does watch some movies, he doesn’t have unlimited access to media like some kids have.

I’m not sure why this is bothering me so much as of late. Perhaps it is that my kids are getting a little older, or that I am. Maybe it is that I’m starting to see that I need to connect to people, and use technology to keep from doing it a good bit of the time.

But are the people I know on Twitter more important to me than whomever I am eating lunch with? Shouldn’t kids have to learn that sometimes life involves waiting without Angry Birds?

The Answer

I don’t have an answer to any of this. Hell, I’m not even sure I’ve described my frustration with our society’s love affair with social media and other technologies that can rob of us of actual relationships.[1. I’m not saying that online-only relationship aren’t real. I am saying, though, that our real-life ones deserve more respect that those only existing as bits and bytes.]

I think parents need to have the stones to take devices away from their kids when the time calls for it. I think I need to have the stones to put my iPhone in my pocket and pay attention to people more.

But that’s way less fun than killing green pigs, isn’t it?