I remember a time when I didn’t have a cell phone. For the longest time, I didn’t want one. I am not the greatest driver in the world and I don’t really like to be distracted by anything in addition to half a dozen kids when I drive. So, a cell phone in the car would certainly put me over the top. I resisted for a very long time. Finally, the day came when I recognized that with a cell phone would come the convenience of talking with my husband any time, no matter where he was in the country. Since he travels frequently, often on the weekends when I am away from the house with our children, it seemed like a good idea.
Then there was the computer. It began with a single e-mail account and a couple of online home-schooling support groups administrated through e-mail. Over time, I acquired two or three more e-mail accounts, a home-schooling message board, blogs and blogrolls, Facebook, Twitter, and a new Catholic social networking site (Faith and Family Connect). That was my virtual world. But my “real life” world ended up in my inbox as well. Five or six different coaches, a ballet teacher, the team managers from four different teams, the social managers from those teams and my real life home-schooling groups all have 24/7 access to me through my computer. Theoretically, so do my family and friends, including immediate family in distant places. And every single person who communicates this way expects an answer right away because, after all, it’s electronic and electronic means “instant.”
What those electronic communicators don’t know is that I read most of their messages with a baby at my breast or a toddler on my lap. I rarely have my hands free to respond. No matter how compelling their story or pressing their question, my husband expects to find clean socks in his drawer and my children need to be fed at least three times a day. Often, I read and then walk away from the computer. There is life happening in the rest of my house, the rooms without computers. That fact really bothers some of the people in my computer.
I’m learning that just as cell phones have made it so that people expect to be able to reach someone by voice anywhere, any time, “Blackberries” are making it so everyone assumes we are checking e-mail and Web sitess everywhere, all the time. Recently, a coach canceled a baseball game. He sent an e-mail around three in the afternoon. News flash: “Mothers at home” are not sedentary. Usually, we are out in the world at three in the afternoon. Don’t assume we are checking e-mail. Ah, but he did assume just that. “You don’t have a Blackberry?” No. I don’t.
Can’t we please slow down? My fear is that we are accumulating technology that allows life to move faster and faster and faster until we reach such a dizzying pace that there is absolutely no time for human touch, poetic language (no poetry in text messages) or meaningful moments of silence. Frankly, the only blackberries I want are the kind you pick from among the brambles on a quiet, hot July day in a place where the tinny ring of a cell phone would sound sacrilegious.