Father Time is a weekly column dedicated to the concept of time in a parent’s life, particularly a father’s life. The point of view comes from a father of two young sons, both under three-years-old, and how time really is just that: a concept.
Our ability to book a flight, buy a song, read the headlines, and do our banking all in one sitting has bought us what we think is more time, however, our downloadable world has actually set us back. How can it be that having technological convenience in the palms of our hands has slowed us down?
It has to do with our perception of time as an almost tangible thing, and how we now try to control it, instead of honoring it.
Transport yourself to 1989. You had a growing collection of compact discs, you probably still had a VCR, and you might have known someone that had a “portable cellular” telephone. Though it seems so limiting now, the impact technology of that era had on our day-to-day lives was far less invasive than it is today.
If you wanted to know something back then, you had to find a set of encyclopedias, either at home or in the reference section at your local library, or get the answer from an expert. All of this could take days or weeks. If you wanted a certain song or book, you had to go to the store, buy it, and bring it back. Those were the times we lived in, and we were none the wiser.
Looking backward, we see how our use of time then was largely devoted to the journey toward something versus immediate arrival at the destination. Researching a paper or topic of interest meant exploring many different paths before you found what you wanted.
A few years ago, Sunset Magazine featured “The Unplugged Home” where one San Francisco family realized the only way they could slow time down was to limit the bombardment of the outside world via technology. They gave their kids arts and crafts and instruments instead of video games and Kindles. They went back to rotary phones and ground their own flour. And no, they’re not Amish. They’re more like a modern hipster family that’s doing their damnedest to not get eaten up by the Techno-Beast.
In the article, the father talks about how long and glorious their weekends are because they’re not letting the fast paced world scoot them along. They dictate the pace of their lives and it’s slow by design.
I’m not here to advocate that we go back to grinding our own grains. There’s an invention called sliced bread for a reason. What I am for is excising select parts of the the technological gyre we swim in every day. Turn phones off at bedtime. Set computer curfews for everyone, mom and dad included. Facebook, Tweet, and Instagram once a day, or only from your desktop, not your phone. Watch only one show a night instead of binging. Play a board game. Sit and talk about the day. And for Pete’s sake, actually look at the cute little curves of your kids’ faces instead of snapping pictures of them all day. Please.
Unplugging can and does happen. Did you know next year’s National Day of Unplugging is March 4-5? http://nationaldayofunplugging.com It’s been a thing now since 2009.
If anything, making a habit of stepping away from our technology is for our own health, and that of our families. As fathers, we have a huge role to play here. We can set the tone for our kids’ consumption of, and adaptation to technology. It won’t hurt us, or them, to go to the library rather than going to Google. We can still do that. Let’s just try not to do it so much.
Oh, and that family in Sunset magazine: they do own laptops. They just use them very sparingly. To book flights.
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker.