Resources for the Intentional Parent

Conversation and Presence in a Tech-Connected World

In her September 26, 2015, article in The New York Times, Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation, makes the case for face-to-face conversation. She urges readers to “reclaim conversation for yourself, your friendships and society, push back against viewing the world as one giant app.”

Kudoso exists to help parents set good, positive technology boundaries for their children, but those of us grown-ups who struggle with the place technology takes up in our lives are one-half of the problem too. Turkle points to the impatience and lack of empathy our “app generation’s” insistence on efficiency and speed has brought about; she challenges us that the imperfections and inefficiency of real, uninterrupted conversation can reunite us with our humanity and with empathy.

Sometimes I catch myself viewing my friends and family like a consumer would products: what can they offer me? If they are too messy or too difficult, maybe I’ll move on to something easier, more entertaining. (I hate to even admit that I do this sometimes, but I bet I’m not the only one.)
People are not a commodity. They are messy, wonderful, beautiful beings with whom genuine connection is always a little unorganized and imperfect. We all need a few people in whom we invest-- not perfect people, maybe not even cool people, but trustworthy people we let see our true selves, people willing to sit with us in the boring times as well as the entertaining times. Perhaps some of our overreliance on technology is in search of these people (via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, dating apps, chat rooms). But once we begin to find them, do we let our habits of distraction rob us of focused time with them?

I had a friend who was always engaged in the pursuit of something more interesting, more likely to boost her status; despite the facts that she was a caring, wonderful woman and that we had had some genuine moments of connection, she could hardly find time for me, and when she did, she was always checking a phone or managing a deadline or doing something more than being with me in the moment. I loved her dearly, but her distraction hurt me every single time it happened.

I have another friend who for some odd reason chose me. She’s one of the most intentional people I know. And even though she too is very busy, almost every time I am with her, she makes eye contact with me and she really listens to me. She uses Facebook a lot too, but it’s rare for her to be checking it when I’m talking to her. She makes room for me in her life. As a result, I feel valued, listened to, like I matter. She doesn’t have a ton of close friends (though she has many with whom she is friendly). She can’t give that focused attention to everyone. The gift of her time seems all the more significant because of this.

The way my children experience me is similar to the way I experienced my two friends. All too often, I fail to give my children and husband my full attention, my eye contact, my interest and time in a way that says, “You matter to me.” It’s no wonder that my kids pick up on this and begin to form the same habits over time. I need to do better.

Now—reality check—I am a human, and I am not going to do this perfectly. There are going to be up and down times. There are going to be times I’m focused on work or chatting with a friend online, and I can’t give my family my full attention. But I think taking a wide-lens view might be really helpful. Am I making up for those times by finding other times to give my family my full attention? Am I setting boundaries against my own lack of self-control (logging off of social media for periods of time, for instance) that will help make it more automatic for me to connect with my family? Am I taking the time to communicate that they matter to me more than anyone else on earth?

I dearly love both of the friends that I mentioned, but I want to be more like the second friend. She gives of herself with love and presence in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in our distracted world.

I want to do that too.

By Kudoso Kontributor, Rebecca Miller