We gathered our children and grandchildren and headed to the west coast of Vancouver Island for a short family vacation. As in the past, we were anticipating the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and remove ourselves from the demands of everyday life. We knew that there would be laughter, great food and long walks on the beach.
On this particular trip, we brought along two versions of a board game called “Trains,” which all of us knew and enjoyed playing. With the two versions, eight of us could play simultaneously. Throughout the game, there were jokes exchanged as our competitive natures kicked in….all in good fun.
It didn’t take long for someone to discover a phone app for the game so several of us downloaded it. At one point four of us were playing the game online. We were sitting alone in various parts of the house and interacting with each other online. There was no conversation or laughter or personal contact at all apart from the odd isolated groan when one of us deked out another in the game.
The online version of Trains separated us from each other although technically we were playing together. There was no laughter or kidding around or random conversation. The house was silent.
One of us who was not playing noticed the paradox of being disconnected while being connected and commented on what she saw and didn’t hear. We logged off and headed back to the table to resume the board versions of the game and the lively and enjoyable interactions.
Recent research on families has indicated that young people are becoming depressed and anxious at rates far greater than in the past. The researchers noted that when children do not bond well or connect on a regular basis with their primary family, they choose secondary connections, which are usually with equally immature and impressionable peers.
Many of the teenagers and young adults who were found to be suffering from various mental health issues had been isolated from their family. They were materially well cared for but their emotional needs had been neglected through disconnection and isolation from caregivers.
Parents today are more distracted than they have ever been as there is the constant temptation to check texts or emails or tweets. Media preoccupation takes the parent away from his/her children. One mother looked forward to nursing her baby girl so that she could catch up on her media content: however, she was missing out on some precious and irreplaceable closeness with her child.
On another holiday we found a delightful restaurant to dine in. A few tables away sat a family of four; the mother had her tablet in front of her for most of the meal. The other three members of the family sat mainly in silence except when the mother was able to tear herself briefly away from her distraction.
Technology is amazing on many levels but it can also be a grave cause of concern for family well-being and emotional health because of its potential to distract and divide. It is interesting how a technology connection can so easily lead to disconnection with the people next to us. When those who are being disconnected are our own loved ones, we are unintentionally demeaning and neglecting the very people we should be honouring with our undivided attention.