Let me start by telling you this: I live off my phone. God help me, I do.
But my choice of preposition here is important: off my phone . . . not on it. My calendar, documents saved to the cloud, email, music, videos, even clips to show interview subjects at work all reside on my phone. It’s an integral part of how I do business now. It’s like the old days of a Franklin planner without the post-it notes and paperclips sticking out.
But I became even more conscious of my time off the phone and iPad after a conversation with a friend of mine in another state. He foregoes the technology when his kids are speaking to him or about something. That goes for the television, the radio, phone, computer, all of it.
I became conscious of my decisions about technology after our conversation. I’ve detailed before that we have “Tech-Free-Day” in our home . . . TFD. But that’s more their videogame systems and pushing them to read.
The biggest thing, though, is our time together. When we’re together, we’re together. I have no issue with my 14-year-old spending time in her bedroom and on the phone, looking at pictures, doing what she can. She knows I monitor what she does and I have significant amount of trust going both ways there. My twin boys, 10, don’t have phones.
So when they come to talk to me, the phone goes down. I could be in the middle of an email and I stop where I am. If the television is on I pause it on the DVR or put it on mute. If I’m playing guitar I mute the strings and stop. There’s a reason for this: what they want to tell me is important, particularly to them. I want them to know that what they say isn’t hitting my eardrum and bouncing back off. I register what they’re saying. I thank my friend for this because I wasn’t aware I was doing it before.
The one thing I made an absolute rule in my house: no tech at mealtime. When we sit at the table, be that breakfast, lunch or dinner, there’s no technology. We play a record during dinner, we sit at the table, and – wonder of wonders – we talk to each other. It’s this habit that has me knowing what friend wants my daughter to join their punk band; what kid has asked my son to help him write a horror story; and what poem his twin is reading at a speech competition. This is far better than the sloppy chewing noises coming between iPhone clicks.
This applies to when we go out. I’ll admit, when we go out to eat, I have my phone with me. I will check an occasional text if it’s from their older sister . . . or we’ll take a picture and send it to my parents or post it on Instagram.
But when I’m off the phone . . . I’m off the phone. I battle with my daughter that we’re out in public and that a restaurant or In ‘N Out Burger is no different than the dinner table at home.
The reason? Our social lives are just that: social. We interact, we love, we kiss, we tickle, I muss their hair, all of those things are tactile. “Social media” is “media,” it’s not in-person. Cutting the technological tether also teaches the skills you need to survive socially.
That, if you were wondering while reading this on your phone, is a good thing.
What about you? Are you too tied to technology? Do you pay attention to your kids or are you typing away?
Dave Manoucheri is a writer, journalist and musician based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins is a chronicle of their life after the loss of his wife, Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.