By Holley Kelley, M.S., C.P.G., FT
Remember playing the game “Simon Says” when we were kids? Simon Says, “Take three steps back!” We’d listen ever-so-carefully to our pint-sized commander and chief to ensure we were following their verbal cues to remain steadfastly in the game to the bitter end, in hopes to overthrow the powerful throne.
That memory recollection is akin to a time machine—one that creates a cognitive smirk of another dimension, and mentally transports us back to an eternally recognizable, yet unfamiliar world of yesteryear. The same world where kids would conspire to collaborate at dusk for a neighborhood game of cops and robbers. We would yell to mom and dad that we’d be back in a few hours—maybe or maybe not indicating our exact whereabouts—and it may or may not have been relevant back in the day.
Our hearts would beat rapidly with fear as we’d seek out the prized hiding spot and hoped to not be captured by the “cops.” We’d hide, trying to control our heavy breathing, as we sweated profusely in the grueling heat of those hot summer nights. We took these matters serious—because kids play often involved intense wagers and sagacity that only an adolescent mind could rationalize! Winning and losing these games distinguished our ranking in the neighborhood echelon, and categorically defined our position among peers, until the next game where power may precede us and relegate us into another ranking. Yep, being a kid in the seventies was simple, pure—and sometimes even boring—as we had to create our fun.
I personally recall having had a tee pee set up in my front lawn for weeks at a time. I camped in it sometimes. My life-long friend and neighbor, Timothy, would join me in these childhood adventures with my brother, Del. Our pursuits typically involved being outside and occasional interactions with some form of semi-life threatening danger, which I must confess was most of the fun. Thankfully we usually had luck prevailing in our puerile and naïve youth. Except when my brother, Del and Tim collectively blew me up with a cherry bomb—but that is an entirely different blog—perhaps more appropriately fitting for, let’s say, JULY! Other nights we’d move our sleeping bags to the trampoline in the back yard for a change of scenery. But wherever we were, the stars always aligned flawlessly above us and glittered upon us beautifully. Life was simple, perfect, and amazing. We had freedom to go and be and do.
We stayed connected well back then. We’d dial (buttons came later) each other on the telephone—a phone shared with other members of the household as you will recall—a phone tethered to the wall, not portable (that was later technology) and certainly not discreet. We’d plot and organize our plans, but when we didn’t get an answer we performed the inconceivable action for the modern era—we’d walk over to the other person’s home and knock on their door unannounced, only to be warmly greeted and welcomed in!
Dinner at a friend’s house was normal and granted simply by a phone call home to mom. In fact this was so common a ritual it was customary to determine where to eat dinner based on whose mom was serving the best meal!
Timothy’s mom’s Spaghetti dinner (she added corn to her sauce!) always trumped my mother’s meatloaf; and my mom’s fried chicken won out over his mom’s beef stroganoff. These were known truths in the neighborhood veracities and were decisions made without deliberation. Today, for many it may be difficult to remember the last time children called home asking to stay for dinner at a friend’s home, or perhaps even the last family dinner when every member took their chair around the dinner table.
Life has taken us in an entirely different direction, modernized us, no doubt. Great in so many ways. I don’t even have to leave my bed or change out of my cozy pajamas to order my extra bold dark roast Keurig® coffee pods. In fact speaking of Keurig®, coffee has even become easier. Amazon kindly delivers orders right to my front door step, seamlessly, and even notifies me when they’ve arrived. Life is easy! But complicated…and easy. We need for very little.
But there’s still something we do need—and I’ll get to that…
I found myself trying to concentrate while writing the other day. The interruptions were coming in one after the other. My phone was making strange noises—one’s I hadn’t heard before—buzzes, hums, beeps, my goodness this rectangular communication device, mini-computer turned into a pint-sized juke box, and it was terribly annoying. I realized it was the result of having recently received a software update, and with that update came upgrades, whether I liked them or not. In this case, “Not!”
With the buzzing, humming and beeping I found I was no longer engaged on the relevance of my work but instead my attention had been redirected to what I considered unimportant time spent with my device. The next thing I knew, several minutes had been wasted, and I am not an advocate of squandered time.
I had to wonder when I deviated so far from my original task and time dwindled and evaporated so effortlessly, how much technology is actually interfering with our society’s productivity, self-development, and personal enrichment. Everywhere I go today people are on their phones. Look around, from restaurants to your own home, and you will see families, couples, and friends, comingling together, but often not visiting and engaging with one another.
Instead they are hypnotically mesmerized by the apparatus that has nearly evolved to an unofficial, untethered non-organ. This device very well may have become more important to some than the organs of which they were born.
Immediate communication and access to information has become beyond normal—it has become indispensable. But while phones have in some ways increased communications and access, in other ways they have replaced it. It is an interesting anomaly making smart phones almost the oxymoron of gadgets.
I immediately became frustrated with this spellbinding apparatus that had compromised my efficiency and in an impulsive act of impetuous frustration I turned off these notifications sequentially, and logged out of them so they could no longer “access” my mind, body, and spirit at their every whim. I acknowledged nothing was more important than what I was doing right then. Moreover, nothing was going to dictate my time other than me.
Whew! I could breathe again! The heavy burden of demands was immediately lifted. I was no longer accountable to the small, hypnotic box, beckoning my devotion, summoning my soul, stealing my life moments. I looked around and felt whole and immediately refreshed again. I was glad I dialed it back a bit and put a governor on this unrelenting dominion with a voracious appetite to hoard all I valued. I refused to concede to this duplicitous authenticity thief.
I fear if we don’t control the technology, the technology could very well control us. I cannot imagine not having the benefits and peace of mind a cell phone provides. And while I think that the days gone by were really cool—today has a lot of benefits that yesterday didn’t. I can immediately talk to my mom from anywhere in the world. I know when my son arrives safely to college—without even calling him—I have an app for that! Yes, there’s times that I LOVE technology! And while being a self-proclaimed “antiquated contemporary,” there’s times I long to go “old school,” and type out a manuscript on an IBM Selectronic, using White-Out and a paper-bound Thesaurus. But I too have surrendered to the simplicities of technology as I type out this blog for the digital venue of which you will access and read it.
But it’s important to separate the delineating difference between technological asset and technological addict. I said earlier in the article we need for very little today. But the thing we ALL still do very much need is to connect personally and emotionally with each other.
That will never be outdated—no matter where technology takes us. Maybe kids don’t play cops and robbers anymore but connecting in-person, undivided and undistracted, and having a real conversation is one thing that never goes out of style. It is up to us to uphold that tradition and keep IT from going extinct. With summer just around the corner, adventure zone ahead, and vacations just on the horizon—May is the perfect time to bring back the game Simon Says.
The question Simon’s asking you is, “Do you own your device?” or, “Does your device own you?”
Simon says if it’s the latter consider this: “Set some boundaries. Be in your moments. Turn things off if they distract you. Leave the screen. Stop taking the picture for others and LIVE the moment for YOURSELF. Put the phone down. Become mindful of your technology use. Take a technology free vacation. Dine and date without your phone. Modify your notifications. Have a family dinner “just because.” Play Simon Says! Go a little old school and see how it feels!”
We didn’t miss much back in the day and our lives were certainly full. Consider giving yourself a little room to breathe, think and be. By quieting your distractions, you may find yourself refreshed and more at peace, allowing you to live happier—with flair, finesse and FUNctionality!”