Like so many Labor Days before this one, those of us in the United States have the opportunity today to pause and pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. We mark the end of summer, the beginning of school and oftentimes, we fill this day with parties, baseball games, family and friends. This Labor Day weekend, my husband and I headed up to Philadelphia to catch a Bruce Springsteen concert. Looking out at the crowd and our neighbors around us, I was surprised to see where so many of the crowd's eyes were fixed. They weren’t looking at “The Boss”—instead, they were looking at their smartphones. Those who were looking at “The Boss” were enjoying him through their outstretched camera phones and iPads –recording and watching every moment live—on screen, in the stadium.
It made me wonder what moms and dads were up to in other settings on this holiday—at their BBQs, parades, family picnics and sporting events. Were they spending their day “off” fully online?
I’ve written for sometime now about the need to be present in our kids’ lives and also how technology can interfere with our ability to live in the moment. New York Times columnist Jenna Wortham also wrote about this recently, highlighting the anxiety she felt when she learned that cell phones were not allowed at the neighborhood pool she was visiting. As she explained:
After walking to the side of the pool and reluctantly stretching out on a towel by the water, my hands ached for my phone. I longed to upload details and pictures of my leisurely afternoon, and to skim through my various social networks to see how other friends were spending the weekend. Mostly, however, I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t some barbecue or summer music festival that we should be heading to instead.
Eventually, the anxiety passed. I started to see my lack of a digital connection as a reprieve. Lounging in the sun and chatting with a friend without the intrusion of texts and alerts into our lives felt positively luxurious… My revelation — relearning the beauty of living in the moment, devoid of any digital link — may seem silly to people who are less attached to their devices. But for many people, smartphones and social networks have become lifelines — appendages that they are rarely without.
It’s probably safe to say that most of you are rarely without your smartphones, and if you have teenagers, they are an important source for staying up-to-date and in touch with their whereabouts and online lives. Our iPads and camera phones can certainly capture precious moments in our children’s lives--technology, in many ways, can be a beautiful addition to our family.
Unfortunately, for many of us, rather than using technology to enhance the moment or to capture life’s precious moments, we’re drawn away from being present with our family and, instead we’re investing our moments in the online world. Whether we’re obsessing over every status update online, every work email sent, every funny video posted, or whether we’re spending less and less time with our kids and more and more time with online pornography, we’re sending a message that the online world—our online friends and our online addictions are more important than our children and spouse are. And, in every moment we spend with our kids, and every moment we spend glued to our smartphone or recluse with our computer screen, we’re modeling our priorities and setting an example for our kids to follow. So this Labor Day, take a moment to think about whether or not you are being present in the moment. Look up from your Smartphone (or even better put it away for a few hours) to spend time really connecting with those you love. Help your kids know and feel that they are appreciated and loved, and that where you want to be is right there with them on this Labor Day.