The other day I heard something that bothered me. And, I was about to let it go, until I saw a clip of two women at the Grammy’s who, instead of giving a standing ovation to Glen Campbell’s performance, felt it was more important to Tweet to their virtual followers. Really? In a once-in-a-lifetime moment of REAL life, you shrug it off for the virtual? Try as I might, I can’t resist pulling out the soap box on this one. This is for parents, teachers, and any other person who has an influence in a young person’s life.
What initially irked me was catching a television interview between a newscaster and a teenage girl. The girl was grousing about sanctions being placed on texting and social media. Quite frankly, she copped an attitude while replying, “We live in a virtual world and if adults want to reach us, they better realize the only way we communicate is on our phones and computers.” Really? A virtual world, huh. Interesting.
Perhaps you’ll think I’m overly sensitive to this and missed her point. No, I got the point. Last I checked, we can communicate in a virtual world, but our day-to-day life is PHYSICAL. However, many people, and it appears they are primarily young people, are quickly losing the ability to interact in this real, physical world. The reasons are many, the net of blame can be cast far, and the repercussions are going to be far deeper than we can fathom!
My own young-adult children are adept at using their smart phones, social media, Skype and a whole host of virtual communication. However, they are also avid conversationalists, have jobs in which they must interact with the public, and know appropriate social skills. Of course I have to occasionally remind them to turn off phones or avoid texting when visiting, but I know that they know the skills they need in this physical world. How do I know this? Because they were taught!
I once witnessed a friend of mine yelling at her daughter for loading the dishwasher incorrectly. She complained that the girl had no sense and commented, “I load it every day, she should know how by now!” I simply asked her, “Have you ever shown her how?” With a look of confusion and shame, she confessed she had not. We often assume those around us are paying attention to the things that are important to us. However, the reality is they are paying attention to what is important to them and are oblivious to all else. We must teach, not assume.
Sadly, there are so many young people who have not been taught basic life skills, including how to communicate appropriately. Yes, we (adults) should teach our young people how to talk to others, the manners we want them to exhibit, the skills we know are necessary for success in life, and to remind them there are real people here who love and care for them, people who can reach out and hug them, dry a tear, or fix a flat tire…their computer or phone screens cannot do that for them.
Turn off your televisions, computers and phones and TALK to your children, grandchildren, young relatives, neighbors, and your friends’ children. Show them the importance of being a physical person interacting with other living, breathing people in a positive way and they might just want to do more of that! Show them the fun found in exploring the great outdoors, participating in sports, playing a board game, cooking and sharing a meal together, and myriad other interactive activities. Teach them the importance of living, truly living, in the moment. Give them proof there is life outside their virtual world!
I’m all for virtual reality, social media and the ever-changing world of technology. However, I believe we were given these physical bodies to move through our physical world for a finite number of days. When I’m nothing but vapor in the other-world, then I will concede I live in a virtual world! Until then, it would be a shame for any of us, especially our young people with so much ahead of them, to squander those days with no more companionship than an electronic device. Let’s remember to balance the real world with the virtual one and let’s be there for one another when the devices are put aside!