As the “Summer of Mayhem” begins to wind down for my family and I, a few moments were recently taken to reflect upon a slight change in routine that I made towards the end of this unprecedented stretch of family events, weekend getaways, summer BBQs, 2 trips to Chicago, our annual family vacation to the Jersey Shore, an unplanned family event of a sad nature, and finally our boys’ fantasy football draft weekend extravaganza.
This change in routine I was reflecting upon was related to my recent, internal struggle with smartphone addiction.
Earlier in the year I wrote about technology in a broader sense; about how it pertains to my kids and what this instant access to any and all information means for their upbringing. But recently I started internalizing this issue and wondered about how advancements in technology were affecting me.
Am I a different person now because of this unimpeded access to information and/or the ridiculous ease of communication that is available right in my hand, or more worrisome, my ever-growing reliance on it?
Long story short, such thoughts caused me to bag the cell phone for 90% of our weeklong family vacation (the other 10% was work related), and I have been “struggling” to get back to my previous level of activity ever sense.
The businessman in me lobbies for the smartphone and says that the more efficient and omnipresent I am at all times, the greater success I will have. The philosopher in me argues that I am missing the here and now by obsessing over where I am going and what’s next.
For better or for worse I didn’t come up with any answers during this reflection, but rather fell back on the trusty belief that, as with anything in life, you need to find the right balance.
For example, as much as I’m starting to rebel against this new wave of technology, it was actually a lifesaver right before my wife and I left for a wedding in Chicago (1 of the 2 aforementioned trips). My 4-year-old was pretty much losing his mind that we were leaving for the weekend because, well, everything is basically life or death with him right now. It’s hard to fault him in this case as it was a pretty daunting situation to ask a kid so young, yet also old enough to grasp exactly what was happening, to handle without any sort of emotion.
I started to think of ways to stay in more frequent contact with him during our trip to help ease the separation (the amount of times I wish I was just able to text this kid is downright scary) and all of a sudden a random thought popped into my head – I can not only print to our wireless printer from my fancy phone when in range of our home network, I can also email it, when not in range.
A predetermined email address was given to me during the initial software setup that allows me to send my printer an email, and not only will it print the body of said email, but also anything attached.
I quickly found a picture of our two boys on my phone and emailed it to our printer as sort of a trial run before we actually left the house. I then asked my oldest to go check the printer and sure enough he came back with 2 pages in his hands, 1 containing the actual email and the other the picture. He had a big smile on his face at this discovery and I told him to check the printer often for I would send him more pictures all weekend of our trip to Chicago.
And I did.
Reports from his grandparents watching him were that he was beyond excited for these pictures and could barely wait for the next one. I sent him a picture of the airplane we were about to board when leaving, our rental car upon arrival, random buildings in Chicago, the deep dish pizza we had for lunch, 4 jets flying in tandem from the Chicago Air & Water Show going on that weekend, a fire station in the city, a few pictures of just his Mom and I so he could see our faces, the church where the wedding was held, pictures of the bride and groom, and finally the airplane that would take us home.
With each picture I would also send him a short message in the email about what we were doing and how much we miss him and his brother. He even made a booklet together with his grandparents to keep all of the pictures together.
All in all, a random grand slam for Daddy and a nod to the power of today’s technology. Balance is hard. It’s very easy to go to the extremes, as often seen in our diet and exercise routines as well as the age old work versus play tug-of-war, but finding that sustainable, middle range is the real challenge.
In this particular instance, the scales tip back in favor of technology and its advancement of the ease of communication. It made my boy happy during a trying time, and that makes me happy.
My hope for the future of humanity is temporarily restored and all is right in the world.
To my incredible readers: My guess is that this balancing act with technology is far from over and that this post will turn out to be the first in a series. Kindly keep an eye out for more and please share your thoughts and experiences on – The Technology Balance.
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 8/26/12.