January 7, 2014
We’ve all heard the stories about kids today and their addiction to cellphones, and how it’s not like it was when we were kids — as if something else is like it was. But cellphones and games come in for special abuse, and I have to admit, I have jumped on the “Woe is me, cellphones (or computer games or piercings or tattoos or whatever) will be the ruin of us all” bandwagon many, many times.
So I was impressed to hear from a friend about a young teenage girl who went to a party and decided that she was missing too much of her life by being on her cell all the time. So she turned off her phone, put it in her coat pocket and threw it on the bed with all the other coats.
She had a wonderful time, caught up with all her friends without ever once looking at her Facebook account, talked to everyone without using Twitter, and looked at her friends’ faces in real life, not in selfies. She ate hors d’ouevres and even danced a little. Not once did she think that she was missing anything; she didn’t have any fancy new psychological problems like “SIWS” (Sudden Internet Withdrawl Syndrome) or “IRP” (Instagram Regret Pattern).
She didn’t feel like Snapchatting anyone; she liked hearing music without earbuds; she enjoyed talking to her friends without having to see them through a computer camera. She even enjoyed dressing up, something you don’t really have to do when you’re texting, because who’s going to see you?
When it was time to leave, she grabbed her coat and drove home. She didn’t even remember to fish her phone out of her pocket; she was just thinking of what a good time she’d had. It didn’t occur to her that leaving her phone in her pocket might have been the reason she’d had so much fun, and maybe it wouldn’t have made any difference, who knows? She simply felt warm and happy and at peace with the world. Until she walked in her front door.
“Where have you been?” her mother nearly screamed. She ran up to the girl and hugged her while tears ran down her face. “We’ve been calling you and calling you. We were just about to call the police and file a missing person’s report! Your father and I have been worried sick. You haven’t posted anything on Facebook in five hours! We thought you’d been kidnapped, or ran off with some pervert that you met online or something. Where were you? Are you OK? Do you want go to the hospital? Somebody boil some water. Where were you? Do you think you can find it again on a Google map? I swear we’ll find the people who did this to you and bring them to justice.”
“Mom! I told you I was going to a party at Kathy’s house, don’t you remember?”
“You told me? You mean you didn’t email me? You didn’t share it on your iCalandar with me? You told me? What does that mean, young lady? Am I supposed to remember everything people tell me? Is that the way we do things in this house now? We tell people? Maybe it was my fault, maybe I raised you wrong, maybe I just thought I was leading by example. Well, whatever it is, I can see it didn’t take.
“I called your grandmother and your Uncle Art and Aunt Helen and they’re all in an uproar. What will I text them now? What will I say to my Facebook friends when they get back from their search parties? That you turned off your phone? What kind of person does that? What were you thinking? What is wrong with you kids today?”
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.