Thursday, July 31, 2014

BROWN: Ready to start listening again?

By LINDA BROWN, Hold Me up a Little Longer, Lord | 12/4/2013

The No. 1 son was here last week. His visit, and the assorted sundry of other family and friends gathered to see him, put my brain in a serious state of high alert. He typically is able to only make the 800-mile trip once a year, and I try to memorize and treasure every moment. Later, after the dust settles, I pull out my memories one at a time and live the visit all over again.

I know technology has made this world efficient beyond imagination. Things would no doubt be slower and less advanced, not to mention the labor required to actually have a conversation or written communication without the abbreviated language of texting and tweeting. However, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

The No. 1 son was here last week. His visit, and the assorted sundry of other family and friends gathered to see him, put my brain in a serious state of high alert. He typically is able to only make the 800-mile trip once a year, and I try to memorize and treasure every moment. Later, after the dust settles, I pull out my memories one at a time and live the visit all over again.

I know technology has made this world efficient beyond imagination. Things would no doubt be slower and less advanced, not to mention the labor required to actually have a conversation or written communication without the abbreviated language of texting and tweeting. However, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.”

So, what have we lost to our smartphones, tablets and laptop computers?

I hear many of you shouting, “We’ve lost nothing; we’ve only gained! Look at all the people I can stay constantly connected to.”

Ahh, connectivity ... yes, that’s important, but how many times when you’re connecting with someone else are you really disconnecting with the person in front of you?

How often do you text someone about Uncle Phil telling his “When I was a boy ... ” story; the same story he tells every time two or more gather together.

Aren’t you, in fact, disconnecting Uncle Phil in order to connect with someone else?

Remember when family dinners, or even dinner dates, meant a time of sharing and looking at each other instead of glancing down at the cell phone placed where the fork was when you sat down?

I was flipping through a magazine last week and happened on a spread of beautiful dining room tables all dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner. One hostess had even incorporated small silver easels at each place setting for her guests to “park” their cell phones so they wouldn’t need to lay flat on the table and be subject to spills or mishaps.

Emails are quick and easy, not to mention free, but to open a real piece of mail — a handwritten thank you note or thinking of you message — is on a completely different plane. For starters, it takes some effort on the sender’s part and that in itself makes it even more special.

Being asked out on a date via email or text protects you from the embarrassment of rejection, but doing so in person takes guts and makes you stronger. It also allows you to see a woman smile or a boy become closer to a man.

As we continue to build technology, are we also building character or are we losing our ability to really connect on a personal level? Are we saving time and energy or are we losing important moments?

Four-year-old Bella was sitting on her Uncle Gabe’s lap while he was here, reading him one of her favorite story books. I was watching and could have predicted what eventually happened. Bella glanced up at Gabe and saw him fiddling with his smartphone. She turned the book over and laid it across her legs and folded her arms. After about a minute, Gabe noticed she was no longer reading and looked at her and said, “Start reading.” She looked back at him and said, “Start listening.”

Technology is important, but so is preserving part of what our grandparents’ generation did so well — capturing moments that change lives, that define who we are, and that teach us how to be the best people we can be.

My grandma used to tell me that if she could have just one more day with the love of her life she wouldn’t waste a single second. I fear many of us today waste much more than that.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com

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