My art instructor posted an interesting photograph on her Facebook page the other day. It showed half a dozen teenagers sitting on a bench in front of a famous masterpiece at an art gallery. Every single one of them was looking down at their smart phones, oblivious to each other and their backs to the artwork. We witness similar scenarios every day; a group of people sitting around the table in a food court or coffee shop, individually intently texting or reading something on their personal device instead of engaging in real, personal conversation, the kind that involves interrupting each other’s sentences, group laughter and touching one another’s arms or shoulders in warm recognition and affection.
I’m getting really tired of the slavish devotion to smart phones. We actually managed to exist quite well before they were invented and while I applaud their benefits, let’s rein in the addiction a bit. When I’m having lunch with you, or any meal for that matter, I do not care that your grandchild wants you to know what he or she is eating, doing or thinking at that very moment. I do not want to see pictures of your son’s new deck or your husband’s trip to Home Depot for paint. Unless a close family member or friend is on their deathbed, put your phone to bed.
When my husband and I were visiting war cemeteries in France and Belgium last fall, we were shocked and heartbroken to see a group of teenage students on a field trip to the sacred Tyne Cot cemetery climbing one of the larger monuments to squeal and pose while they took selfies of each other. Does no one realize there is a time and a place for everything?
As we gather around the table for Thanksgiving dinner this year, let’s turn off our phones, turn on the conversation and enjoy our bounty in person. Living in the best country in the world, we have so much to be thankful for: a democracy (including a soon-to-be-over-with election campaign, thank you), our friends and family, plenty of food to eat, healthcare, community and so many other blessings. Let’s do it the old fashioned-way this Thanksgiving dinner. We’ll talk, laugh, make eye contact, hug and share. And for those blessings alone we should be truly thankful.