Don’t let technology govern your holiday

We hosted a rather large gathering of family and friends over Thanksgiving this year – over 25 people. I noticed that technology had taken over much of the family time. People were on their devices checking recipes, Thanksgiving sales, floor plans of stores for the Black Friday (Darker-Thursday) assaults, comparing prices, or outright shopping for the upcoming Christmas holidays. There were a few eerie moments when I entered a nearly silent room and found eight or more people each on their mobile or pad devices. The warm glow of the holidays had been the shimmer of lights from iPhones or iPad screens. The children were the only ones seemingly detached from their hand-held boxes of doom…they were simply playing with toys and each other.

I’m not being critical of my relatives, but it is a fact that technology has permeated every aspect of our lives including family time during the holidays. When we had a hiccup of internet service, I heard about it in a matter of seconds. No one shares photo albums any more during the holidays, we pass around our devices. People didn’t say, “I saw this neat thing,” and describe it, instead they showed pictures or web sites with the thing they were describing. When we went to Lignum to my daughter’s house, people were trying to figure out why their GPSs said go one way, and I was driving another.

This is not entirely new. When I was a kid technology was part of Christmas as well. The best gifts you could get were those that used batteries, which was a curse for the parents. Batteries then lasted somewhere in the area of 40 minutes meaning your toys required a pretty steady stream of Everready’s to keep running. It was the double-edged sword of technology. Ultimately the technology of my youth didn’t interrupt the holiday experience but were an output of it.

I have spent a significant portion of my non-writing professional career at implementing technology solutions around the globe. Technology is something I almost always embrace early on. I love technology as much, if not more, than the next person. Social media and the web have become intertwined with our lives whether we like it or not. I’ve always found it easier to embrace this kind of mix.

The digital tools we utilize in our everyday lives are wonderful things – I really do believe that. I have a device that fits in my pocket, is a movie theater, a portable television, a camera and photo album, a video-conferencing unit, access to my email and social media, and the damn thing can even make phone calls. How cool is that? We are living in the era of Star Trek, which is something I always hoped would happen in my lifetime.

Technology, however, is not a substitute for interpersonal communications. Facebook and Twitter are nothing compared with interacting with other people one-on-one. While they broaden who we connect with, they do not compare with the actual connecting to people live. Unfortunately, we are raising a generation that does not understand the value of interpersonal connections. To them, all that exists is their digital network of poorly written sentences and obnoxious selfy photographs. Their digital footprint and presence is more important than the things that are real and tangible in life.

But this is the holiday season. It is about being with family and friends and making memories together. Those memories do not need to include the goofy picture you saw of someone’s cat on Facebook a week ago. Technology plays a part in this, that is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be a distraction from being together. In fact, technology should play only a small role in your holidays. Use this time to disconnect from the wireless chatter. Unplug your hub. Talk to your guests. No one is sending you anything digitally that is more important than the people you have in front of you during these holidays.

Blaine Pardoe is an historian and award winning author living in Amissville VA. His most recent books are Fires of October: The Cuban Missile Crisis that Never Was – The Invasion of Cuba and World War III and Cubicle Warfare. You can reach Blaine at BPardoe870@aol.com