Cause Belli: Device and Social Media Interruptions at the Dinner TablePosted: June 6, 2013
The problem isn’t that the devices are causing your kids to have a lower attention span. The problem is that the devices allow your kids to be in contact with people and activities they find more interesting and more entertaining than you. Three generations ago you were the most interesting thing to occupy their attention, so you got it. Two generations ago it was the radio. One generation ago it was the television, blaring out the Howdy Doody theme song you can still sing by heart as you blindly absolve your own sins. But these kids today…
The device allows them to be physically present while still seeking an alternate form of communication – and, in fact, one that ISN’T disrupting. The radio, television, phone line of yesteryear required auditory pollution plus physical proximity to elsewhere. You had to go to it and listen to it. Texting, on the other hand, is silent. The kid sits at the dinner table. Present, if not entirely present.
None of that, however, speaks to the underlying problem: you are not the shiniest object in their field of vision. Their friends are, which has always been the case; it’s just that now they can interact with them at minuscule transaction costs. The device was invented to monetize the greater relative interest in communication with the outside world. Read that again: their lower attention span FOR YOU causes the device. Not the other way around. To pretend otherwise is not only logically flawed, but narcissistically so:
P: my kids used to talk to me
P: I bought them iPhones
P: now they’re sullen assholes who ignore me to text their little sullen asshole friends
A: [I can’t be any less interesting! It’s not me!]
C: It must be the device!
This isn’t to say that removing the device can’t be a solution to the problem; as long as you’re still more entertaining than staring blankly at the wall, you’ll get their attention.
At least until dinner’s over, and they can run up to their rooms to get back to whatever attention whoring kids do these days on Facebook.
Wait! I give them attention!
Not from the source they want. Never from the source they want.