Saturday, February 27, 2010

Googling Community: How can we give our kids a shot at rich lives?

Dear Google,

As I watch the first tsunami waves batter the Hawaiian coast, I ponder the planet my son Kai will grown up on. Despite the devastating (and frankly overwhelming) reality of our globe saying F*** you to her inhabitants (um, have we always had this many earthquakes, tsunamis, and natural disasters?), Kai will be faced with a technologically rich universe that hurts my brain to ponder.

Sure, I am just as internet addicted as the next person--I blog and tweet and update my Facebook status, and make iPhone apps and, and, and. And yes, our computer (or "Puter puter" as Kai calls it) is the literal centerpiece of our flat. But I am starting to notice an alarming pattern that unnerves me: the lack of human interaction.

It began when I was researching my Kauai book and I'd meet with innkeepers and when asking them a question they would refer me back to their website. Now, it is one thing to be busy/lazy/uninterested, but it is another thing entirely when a human being is standing in front of you and you can't be bothered to answer her question.

It seems in the almost three years of Kai's life things have gotten even worse. I had to learn of my niece's birth on Facebook. My mommy friends blog to tell me their kids are walking, talking, spitting up, and some even show the intense photos (and videos) of their deliveries on their blogs for all to see. We now communicate through cyberspace in alarming rates. Moms spend more time texting on the playground than hanging out with their kids. Why not, if we don't consistently scavenge Facebook, blogs, the newspaper, Twitter, etc then we are missing out on, well, everything. But what message is that sending our children? Each other? Hint: If you are sitting on my couch and texting someone else constantly, I start to think what I have to say doesn't matter.

Now I understand (and would love to hear from you) why and how technology helps us--I mean your fricken phone can tell you the last time you nursed on the left or turn off your oven for you. But I don't get how we have suddenly forgone human interaction for internet connections. Don't we all feel more lonely, isolated, and just downright dirty when we spend the day searching and searching for something, anything? And in the end, are we better, more satisfied, humans because of it?

If this is where we are today, I can't begin to imagine how devoid of community and connection Kai's life will be. And I for one, now that he is awake, plan to turn off the computer and show him I enjoy him. How about you? I dare you.

Concerned Internet Addict