Ann Althouse comments on a NYT fluff piece about families, in the same room, disappearing into their own devices. She begins by quoting the NYT article:
"While it may look like some domestic version of 'The Matrix' — families sharing a common space, but plugged into entirely separate planes of existence through technology — a scene like this has become an increasingly familiar evening ritual. As a result, the American living room in 2011 can often seem less like an oasis for shared activity, even if that just means watching television together, than an entangled intersection of data traffic — everyone huddled in a cyber-cocoon."
It's a NYT culture article.
Is there a problem here? If a family of 4 were sitting around together reading books, it would seem better than if they were all watching the same show on TV. And yet, with books, you wouldn't be able to IM stuff to each other.
With either books or computers, if you're with other people, you can easily read something out loud to the people in the room and start a conversation. My grandfather used to do that with the newspaper, and I've come to think of it as a kind of proto-blogging.
I'm actually on Ann's side with this one. As long as everybody shuts the things off when it's time to sit down around the family dinner table, as long as people respond to each other, as long as there are other things you can do as a family -- I think there's something rather cozy about everyone being in the same room together and enjoying what they do. It reminds me a lot of when we used to get the newspaper and pass around the sections over our morning coffee.
Last weekend, I came home from my Saturday morning outing and told Mark about something I'd seen while I was having breakfast alone in a neighborhood cafe. "There were groups there, and young families with children, but also there were several couples sitting across from one another -- older couples, younger couples too -- each person using their own laptop." He smiled knowingly as I went on, "They were all sitting there in the booth together, drinking their coffee and staring at their own screens. And I thought --" I sighed and delivered the punchline: "It was so romantic."
I made him laugh, but I was serious!
Not that it isn't romantic that he will take care of the children any Saturday morning I wish while I run errands and get a little quiet time inside my own head. But sometimes when I am sitting by myself having coffee and eggs Benedict -- and by the way, I do really love sitting by myself in a restaurant, it's one of the great little pleasures of my life -- I wish there were some way to share my lovely solitude.
And there's something about the casualness of it that I envy a little bit: Those couples, maybe, get so much uninterrupted time together that they can afford to squander it just sitting together with their laptops. It's not as if I'm going to hire a babysitter just so I can sit in a cafe across from my husband, snickering at blogs while he shops online for carabiners, taking each other's presence for granted.
No, gosh darn it, if we get some time alone out together, we have to make the most of it! Reservations at fancy restaurant, check! Get all dressed up, check! Conversation... must have conversation... ummm.... quick, don't waste it, come up with something!
So, yes, a little envy there. I banish it for now, and remind myself that chances are good there will be time to ignore each other when the children are grown.