Family Dinner, Do Families Interact and Talk to Each Other Any Longer?
Over the years, quite a few women have come to me for psychotherapy because they are exasperated by attempting to talk to their husbands only to find that they are not listening because they are watching a football or baseball game.
Are you the parent of a teenager? Have you had the experience of trying to talk to your's only to find that they are not listening because they are lost in a computer game? If the answers to these questions is, "yes," then you know how frustrating it can be.
Are you a classroom teacher who is having students conduct an experiment biology or chemistry last only to find a student listening to music through ear phones? The student cannot even hear you when you attempt to get their attention.
What if everyone were distracted in these ways so that no one is interacting on a face to face basis?
Psychologist and MIT Professor, Shery Turkle has written a book called, Alone Together. The title is interesting because, if people are together, how can they be alone? The three examples above demonstrate how easy it is to feel isolated when everyone around you is distracted by these electronic devices.
Dr. Turkle's book is based on a vast number of interviews she conducted with families across the nation. What she discovered is that the situation has worsened rather than improved. She found that people of all generations are busy with Facebook, Texting and Chatting on the Internet. What she finds alarming is that everyone is doing these things instead of communicating, face to face, with one another.
As one example, Dr. Turkle discusses nursing mothers who are texting rather than focusing on the infant. The intimate bond between baby and nursing mother is broken by texting rather than connecting with baby.
Another example is of entire families sitting at the dinner table texting instead of talking to each other. Dinner is supposed to be a time when everyone comes together not merely to have a meal, but to discuss the day's activities, events, problems and possible solutions. Its a vital process that solidifies a sense of unity, security and love among members of the family. Just imagine everyone sitting around the table, silent because they are texting. Is this happening in your home?
People are so involved in the social networks, talking to anonymous people in the cyber world that they are ignoring one another in the real world. One teenager stated that if the Facebook were deletled he would feel deleted.
As in the science fiction movie, Blade Runner, we may be find ourselves in a world where we are interacting with robots instead of human beings.
In the past, parents were advised to turn off the television and have everyone doing homework, reading and communicating as a family. Now, its time to close the computers, shut the cell phones and have dinner as families in order to focus on real human issues.
What are your opinions and thoughts about this growing problem?
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD