"X'er," she replied, too soon. She is five years my junior. A remarkably accomplished, poised, insightful and wildly talented 25, but still, 25. Indignant, I retreated to Wikipedia. It seems the dates of Generation X are in question, but many accounts put its end around 1980-82. So it is fair to say I'm in. At first blush, I don't necessarily identify, from a generational perspective, with people 20 years ahead of me. But then I said to my co-worker, "I didn't get my first cell phone until college. I had email at the end of high school, but didn't use the Internet much otherwise." I asked her if she could remember a time before instant communication. She couldn't.
I work in a technologically advanced community. It's not that I am ignorant of technological advances in communication. But too often I hear myself, in a voice that sounds much older than my own, railing against constant contact. I am on Facebook, and though I can appreciate its benefits, I can't bear the thought of reading one more inane post detailing someone's housecleaning to-do list or trip to Applebee's. (I know, I have a navel-gazing blog. I get it; it's ironic). I have, for that reason, avoided Twitter. I don't need to know that level of detail or frequency about anyone I know, let alone celebrities or politicians I don't know.
My family and friends rib me about never having my phone on my person. It's a real argument Daniel and I have had repeatedly. It makes him anxious to know that I have the kids with me, sometimes hundreds of miles away from him, and am often unreachable. What if something happens, he reasons, and I understand his point. But I prickle at the idea that I am to be accessible to anyone who wants to get me at any time just because it's become normal. I want to live my life, look around, and not just long enough to take a photo to post online. I don't want my kids to remember their mommy as always having her head down, thumbs flying.
Daniel recently received an iPad, and Mirabella occasionally plays games on it. It's not that I think the games are bad. I know many are educational. But she is four. I see infinitely more value in her actually coloring than in coloring on an iPad. I want her to run around, not manipulate an avatar on a screen. I want to encourage her love for board games and wooden puzzles, for pages she can turn and touch and smell.
I do not shun technology. My preferred method of communication is e-mail. I don't really find that odd, because I'm a writer anyway, and also because I have little time when I am not driving or at work when I am able to focus on one thing in a quiet location. But I do not text much and can't understand conducting long conversations via text. Though clearly I can see the appeal of chronicling a life in some form online, for me, it only goes so far. In the last three weeks alone, I have learned of three engagements on Facebook. One was a co-worker, but I am in one of the other weddings, and the third is for a close family member. I knew they were coming, but I guess I was looking forward to the calls, the excitement, the stories. Does it make me old-fashioned? Maybe I just want to feel important-- that I matter enough that friends would think to share their news specifically with me? It's selfish, I guess, and maybe that's all it is. But I can't shake it.
Yesterday I needed to reach a (young) co-worker who sits in a different location and I emailed her. Repeatedly. Sheepishly, I turned to IM. It occurs to me that you have to change to grow. I know I need to speak to others in their language-- and in their preferred mode of communication-- if I want to get through to them. Am I running the risk of falling behind? Am I already there? And am I doing my kids a disservice by tempering the electronics? Or maybe my gut is right-- though there will be plenty of time for them to look at screens as they grow-- that the time and space to run and play is what's really threatened.