I nudge my husband who is knee deep in ‘cyber world’. “Hey,” I say, “what shall we have for dinner tonight?”
He looks across to me blankly, then something dawns and his face lights up. “I’m sure there’s an App for that,” he mutters. A quick flick and he’s downloaded something on the iPad. I wouldn’t mind but everything I ask, every discussion we have, turns, in one way or another, into an opportunity for him to gaze at one of the many screens that adorn our home.
After having spent the day web-deving or social media-ing or talking about web-deving and social media to other geeks, he wants to sit watching TV, (well, usually a download, regular TV just doesn’t cut it any more) as well as Tweeting, checking his mails, or reading techno nerdy stuff (Who said men cannot multitask!) He will sit, laptop perched upon his knees, determined look on his face as he taps away, often quite violently, as though he were translating War and Peace into Swahili. This, not half hour after showing our two boys, his recruits, the wonders of the iPad. If he’s not staring at two screens simultaneously (TV and laptop) then he’s killing aliens, rebels or some other hostile being on the Xbox. His gaze cannot leave a screen for longer than five minutes, it seems, before he starts to self destruct.
Our house is awash with screens of some sort or another. We have two TVs, two iPads, a MacBook Air, two iPhones and an iMac, not to mention the redundant four servers, three PCs and a laptop in his home office. You’d think we’ve taken out shares in Apple the way he tries to convince all in sundry of the many benefits of their products. Sometimes he tries to explain something Mac-technical to me and I feel a gust of air brush past me like an angry bird on a mission.
Myself, I liked the simple things in life – a good solid book with physical pages that I can turn, or the feel of a smooth Compact Disk in my hands, that I have to physically load into the CD player. I was also a staunch PC girl, having used one most of my adult life, so courting me to an Apple product was not easy for my husband. Each day he plucked away at my resolve until I finally relented and let him get rid of my PC so he could replace it with the Macbooky thing. I miss my PC, it was a pile of rubbish, components not quite in sync but I knew its quirks.
My phone too, I was quite happy with my Nokia 2010 until he cajoled me into buying an iPhone, and now I couldn’t survive without it. It is my telephone, my social life, diary, library, store of games, camera, dictionary and my notebook, hell, I can download a book in less time than it takes to make tea. It is my pacemaker, sustaining me and doing everything necessary to keep me functioning, and it is utterly resented. I hate being so reliant on technology. We did not evolve into the intelligent beings we are just to have the very life essence sucked out of us by pixels. But then again, why else would our species develop opposable thumbs? That’s another story I think but you can get a sense of my inner conflict.
Eye contact doesn’t happen very often in our house any more. One or the other of us always seems to be glued to a screen. The worse thing about all this is that now our four year old is addicted to the iPad, mainly educational games I grant you, but still he’d prefer to be occupying virtual space than playing with his Lego. Even our two-year-old is engrossed. The iPad is the only thing that will keep them both quiet for longer than five minutes. As I write they are both watching Monsters Inc on the iPad. That said, we do limit screen time to one hour a day, more or less. Problem is that they will spend the following twelve hours whining at me to let them watch ‘beebies’1 or playing games on the iPad.
Parents are constantly being told about the harmful effects of too much screen time in children’s day to day lives. Moderation is key as far as I am concerned. My defense of selective, limited exposure to TV screens is that it teaches children about the world that they would not necessarily learn from parents, or even school but more than that, it helps develop vocabulary and it fires up the imagination. Many times I have watched my two young boys charge around the place pretending to be ‘Mike the Knight’2 or some other character and I think this can only be a good thing.
It seems that screens are taking over our lives, we cannot escape them. I hear that school children are now required to have computers at home. My boys have interactive computer screens at preschool, which have been around for a few years now. They don’t know of a world without screens and computers, without touch screen technology. It’s comical seeing them try to navigate their way around the screen using their finger as they would as iPad. By the time they go to school, keyboards will be obsolete. This is nothing, I hear the next big thing is ‘wearable’ technology where navigation can be done by eye movement alone!
At the end of the day when I think he may just have had enough of screens for one day, my husband will get into bed, reach for his iPhone and open the Kindle App. I try to resist doing the same, really I do, but lately I find it so much more convenient because I always have my book with me, wherever I go, on my phone. Paperbacks piled high next to my bed toy with my sense of guilt but I feel that the full transition is inevitable. Who wants to wait for a hard copy of a book to come in the post when you can have it at your fingertips with only a few taps?
The question is, with my now being so reliant upon technology, what do I do if I get stuck on a desert island? There’s no Apple store there (yet)! The point is, I think it has me hooked. OK, so it has taken time for me to adjust to something the rest of the world sees as old news, but I’m coming around to my husband’s way of thinking. The positives are starting to outweigh the negatives: I can shout at my husband without opening my mouth (he responds better to a text); I can play scrabble with my Sister-in-Law in New Jersey, although she keeps beating me (note to self – must practice more!); and I can have tea brought to me with the touch of a few keys – genius! As for my MacBook Air, I’m still working on that. OK, so I can sync it up with the iPhone and the iPad but it’s still like a foreign country, an unfamiliar territory in which I need to acclimatize, but there is no going back now. I was resistant to technology taking over my life. I clung to the physical world by my raw fingertips, but I have to admit defeat. I am slowly, no longer quite so reluctantly, being sucked into the iCloud.