I wonder if we’re regressing…
Any parent has witnessed the stage, it happens with every kid.
Your little one has her first play date. The kids get along swimmingly, playing with toys, giggling, yammering. And then you notice something, they’re sitting right next to each other, fully aware of each other, happy to be positioned in the proximity of another human of similar knoodlosity. But, they’re actually not playing with each other. Instead, they’re playing by themselves in the presence of each other.
Fancy kid-gurus call this parallel play. It’s, apparently, a perfectly natural evolution for infants. A stage they all go though that helps prepare them for the more genuinely social, and deeply-engaging phase of play where you actually play “with” the other kid. The phase that sets in motion the cultivation of legends and stories that make life so yummy.
But, over the few last years, an odd thing has begun to happen…
Parents, grown-up, tweens and teens are reverting to screen-driven parallel play.
Two people, ostensibly in serious like or love, siting close to each other, comforted by the other’s presence, while being completely absorbed in the whizbang stream of bits, colors and sounds screaming from their screen-bound devices of choice. But it’s actually worse than organic parallel play. Because that’s done in the presence of a playmate with awareness of their existence. And it’s something you quickly grow out of.
When we parallel screen-play as adults, we often remain physically present, but are, in every other way – emotionally, spiritually, psychologically – somewhere else. We’ve slipped so effortlessly into the digital abyss, we don’t even notice our playmate. Nor they us, having similarly dissolved into their own plain-view private screen life. Neither person realizes when the other’s left, because each remains physically installed, though for all intents and purposes, they’re brains have left the building.
Just yesterday, The Boston Globe reported on a 2010 study by the Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, that revealed:
“Over the last decade the amount of time family members in Internet-connected households spend in shared interaction dropped from an average of 26 hours a week to less than 18 hours. Meanwhile, complaints of being ignored at times by family members using the Internet soared.”
I wonder if it’s time to reign in parallel screen play, to set aside daily screen sabbaticals? Deliberate windows where we don’t process side-by-side, but rather engage, eyes-to-eyes, words-to-ears, soul-to-soul. I wonder if the very thing that’s flattened the world and enabled relationships on a global scale is now inspidly degrading the ones that exist in our own backyards.
What good is connecting with the world if it disconnects you from the soul sitting next to you?
Intuitively, this doesn’t strike me as a constructive thing.
What do you think?
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