it was a typical sunday evening. we had just settled in from a long day of workouts, errands, and random household chores. the kids were huddled up on the couch, eyes scanning the rectangular screen, fingers rapidly pressing and swiping, and their intent faces illuminated by the bluish glow shining up from their laps. tablet time.
“dinner’s almost ready guys! can you please turn that off and wash your hands.”
“excuse me! did you hear what i just said?”
nada. they didn’t even flinch.
as i watched them, the scene from afar was heart-warming. the two brothers, lately more sparring partners than adoring siblings, were giggling, smiling, admiring each others’ mastery of the ginsu knife swipe on “fruit ninja.”
but their utter entrancement with the device—and complete lack of acknowledgement of me—were starting to bug.
“hey, you guys need to listen to mommy!” my husband said sternly, looking back at me to exchange eye-rolls before heading out the front door to take out the trash.
“ok. 5 more minutes, PLEASE!! i just need to get to the next level.”
ugh. my will to fight was sucked up in the puffs of steam rising from the medley of pots and pans on the stove, so i gave in.
“fine…but you better turn it off as soon as your time is up.”
2 minutes later, daddy returned, flinging the door open and bursting in with a huge, cheshire cat grin on his face.
his hands were cupped and loosely pressed together.
“GUESS WHAT I’VE GOT, BOYS!”
he was giddy with excitement.
the commotion jarred the zombies out of their trance, and they looked up in unison to see what the surprise was.
he moved his hands closer and we leaned in.
and then we saw it. the bright, green glow flashing intermittently in his hands.
“WHOA! COOL!” the boys squealed as they watched the magic bug light up.
city fireflies are few and far between—in fact it had been decades since i had seen one—so despite my distaste for bugs in general, i too was mesmerized by the light.
i can remember vividly spending hours catching fireflies in my front yard on a late summer evening at dusk. i was around my son’s age, 8 or 9. my brother and i, and the neighborhood twins, were in the front driveway playing four square (old school—you know, the kind with an actual red ball).
as the sun began to set and the daylight dimmed, we started to notice green flickers of light hovering above the lawn. first a few, and then more. it was a spectacle. magic. and we ran into the grass to see if we could catch them.
they weren’t afraid. they weren’t elusive. they buzzed around with no clear direction, almost beckoning our eager hands to take hold. we’d reach out and snatch one—glowing life and light—cupped gently in the palm of our hands…just like my husband’s.
i thought of that summer night with nostalgia and longing…for carefree times and endless days and simple pleasures.
our kids are growing up in a different world. a digital world. and technology has, in many ways, brought “the world” into their hands. facts, knowledge, information, all at their fingertips.
and the frenzy over every new device— most recently the new “magical” iphone 5S—has become human nature for many of us. but i read a provocative, and in my opinion quite profound, article in FastCoDesign about a recent apple commercial that expressed something that i’ve been feeling since the 4, 4S and 5 releases.
everyone is telling me i should care. every time a new model, software version or operating system rolls out, i’m supposed to pant with anticipation for the next new shiny thing. the commercial itself heralds the proclamation:
“this is it. this is what matters. the experience of a product.”
as the author mark wilson writes, "Watch the ad closely for me. As we’re told that products are what matter, we see a series of shots in which people actively turn away from life to engage with their technology…. In what should be a warm, humanizing montage, people are constantly directing their attention away from one another and the real, panoramic world to soak in pixels."
no doubt technology has transformed life as we know it…and in many mind-blowing ways for the better. but don’t be fooled by the bright, shiny glow. no device can ever replace the feeling of sun on your skin, the twinkle in your kids’ eyes, sparkles of light dancing on the water.
it’s up to us to carve out time, “catch fireflies,” keep some moments sacred, devoid of devices and things that impede rather than enhance our experience of life. for our kids—and ourselves—these are the bright, shiny objects we should seek and hold precious. they are the ones filled with magic light that sinks into your soul and lingers long after you let go.