I recently took a day off work and was fortunate enough to attend my son Gabriel’s swimming lesson. Upon arriving, my wife and I found a place at the side of the pool and settled in for a half hour of observing our son. A few minutes later, I looked at our surroundings. What I saw was upsetting enough that I am compelled to bring it to light. On this beautiful summer morning, the majority of parents or guardians sitting poolside were obsessively absorbed in touching, caressing, petting or stroking---their handheld devices, completely unaware of their swimmers. Seldom have I seen a more public or disturbing display of affection.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the miraculous ability of these devices to facilitate communication when families are apart. I believe that through them, we can find answers to most of our pressing questions in a fraction of the time it once took. But what are we doing with the time we are saving? Are we investing device-created time in reaching out to our families, or are we constantly being seduced back to the nonessential, however entertaining glow of screens? And how about the more important question, “What am I going to remember of this precious time when my son learned to swim?” We are learning how much we can do with our electronics, but in the process, are we forgetting all we could do without them?
Our tablets, pads, pods and other devices do so much to connect us when we cannot be together, we mustn’t let them divide us when we are. With all of this touching, there will never be a device that replaces human touch. An app can’t show us what a hug feels like or a succession of hugs. There will never be a screen that glows brighter than the presence of my wife or children, brighter than the human radiance of our family members.
It feels more and more like we are subject to our handhelds. The only time a device should be in charge is when its battery is low. In the future, while our children are learning to swim, I hope we are not all screen sunk somewhere other than the moment. We can take a picture with our phones or other devices, creating a still life to remember. But first we should take pictures with our hearts and remember that life in all its glory, never really holds still. There is power in that, no batteries necessary.