Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Heeding Barbie's Sage Advice

[From time to time I blog for The Exponet (http://the-exponent.com/). Here's the one I did last night.]

So I have issues with iPhones. My husband will tell you it’s because I’m a techno-phobic Luddite. Which is true–but isn’t why I resist getting on the iPhone/Blackberry bandwagon. Let me illustrate.

This spring some girlfriends and I went to NYC. One afternoon we are all on the boat to Ellis Island and Sande and I are having view-gasms at the sight of the Statue of Liberty. The Lady is just gorgeous. We turn to share our emotion with our companions…to find them texting away or reading Facebookor whatever, totally oblivious to the 150 ft goddess towering above us.
“Excuse me ladies,” I say, “but to quote a line from Barbie’s Princess and the Pauper, ‘Be present, be pleasant, and be proud.’” I clearly say it louder than I’d intended because on the next row of benches two men turn around and one asks me to repeat the quote as his boyfriend whips out his electronic gadget and types it in: “’Be present….be pleasant…be proud.’ Barbie you say? Jonathan, we need to remember that.”

The phrase, the first part at least, reflects a real struggle in my life. Frequently I am not where I am supposed to be. Physically I am at church, or a meeting, or the dinner table with my kids, but mentally I am elsewhere, often aided and abetted by an electronic device. While the kids chatter about their day I am straining to listen to “All Things Considered” on NPR. I’m ashamed to admit how often I talk on the phone to my girlfriends or sister when I have a real live child of mine near me who will never be exactly that age again.

My kids used to cringe when they saw me bring out my camera because they know I disappear behind the lens. I get so obsessed with capturing a moment that I cease to be part of it; with my camera I am a historian not a participant. It’s been a real challenge but over time I’ve learned that if I want to really remember an event, from the inside out, I have to leave my camera behind. So some family times that are most dear to me are never recorded. But I remember them in a way I couldn’t have if I hadn’t been truly present.

If I get this distracted by the radio, a camera, and a simple cell phone, I’m terrified what an iPhone would do to me. I’d be the person in a movie theater, missing half the show because I’d recognize a face and have to IMDB the actor to figure out where else I’d seen them. Many times while out to dinner with my husband, I’ll make him look something up for me on his phone—what is Ben Kingsley’s real name (Krishna Bhanji) ? Who was the prostitute in The Brother’s Karamozov(Grushenka)?

Last weekend was our stake conference. I attended the Saturday night session but didn’t hear much of it. I was too busy getting text messages from friends. I felt like I was in junior high again, passing notes, making jokes about the speaker, wondering where we should go eat after, explaining why we were late, etc. And as much as I hated myself for it, and even though it takes me forever to pluck out a message (I can’t even do that predictive thing), I could not stop. I could not be present. Or pleasant. I was not proud. The next day I left my phone in the car. The kids were distracting, and some of the talks were boring. But I was there, body and mind.

So I struggle. I’m a social creature. I want to share my thoughts instantaneously with my people. I want to be in the know. But I also want the people who are with me to know I am trying to be there for them, physically and emotionally. So I resist getting a frickin iPhone. I want to be present. Some people can do both. I can’t.

7 comments:

mom of fab five said...

Who knew that Barbie was so wise? I have to disagree with you about some people being able to do both--they can't. As much as i love the technology and we resisted text for so long--it does interfere with just "being"--my childrens friends have way more contact and interference in our lives than i like--but we do have some established rules--we are the mean parents--but you have to be if you want to spend any time with your kids--just wait till they have phones of their own....remember do as i say and not as i do only works for so long.....

By the way a very good entry--very thought provoking--and the one with Bea peeing in her shoe had me rolling--brought back some great memories

klow_burns said...

Excellent!

mike and maren said...

Doll room 100x over...

Mary and Jared said...

Just because you don't want to text during church events, doesn't mean you can share your thoughts instantly.

Just lean over the pew. Mary and I are always good for a snarky comment and a laugh...

Robyn said...

So I'm not the only techno-phobe...is that how you put it? I have strong and heavily weighted feelings about too much technology robbing people of even having a personal, face-to-face relationship with someone. Like you, I have a hard enough time being present in the day to day life with kids...I went on Facebook for 3 days and got so overloaded with information that I don't have time to care about (who fills in what they are doing every hour?? I say: Go live your life for yourself--) Can people live authenticly when they are thinking of interesting things to do just so they can post them or text them to others??? I felt like information overload with Facebook, I felt like days could go by and I would not do much as a mother or for myself even, and I was getting heart palpitations (not joking, but I am smiling) and stressful anxiety thinking of all the people that were finding me after all these years. I am fighting to live Barbie's sage advice and there is no way (I agree with mom of fab five) that you can do both. When I'm with friends who start texting I think, "Hey go chat with that person, but you can't be here with me and talking to someone who isn't here" and ditto for my kids' friends: if they bring phones in and text others, then I politely show them where they can put their phones (bookshelf in hall) while they are at our house. Anyway, Heather, your blogs are my favorite on a number of levels...this type, the Father's Day odd/eccentric categories, Michael Jacksons' The Way He Made Us Feel, your kids sayings/doings. You are a fabulous writer and thanks for sharing with us! Sorry to be SO long-winded. That's another reason I don't/can't text: I don't have time to say what I really think; a quick phone call is much easier for me.

Dava said...

Yep- Excellent!

Dava said...

I took about a dozen pictures of my grandaughter on a swing....I looked them over on my camera and deleted all the bad ones and there was only one lone, worthy photo left.(She was moving, after all.) I later off-loaded all my pics onto my computer, and later, as I was quickly running through them with my daughter, she made the comment that I had a dozen pictures of flowers (that I didn't care enough to review on the camera)and only ONE of my grandaughter!

Um, though I feel I was somewhat mis-judged on this particular occasion,(nobody's mad) I think I have a problem and a reputation...and I'm working on it!
Thanks.