Technological Vacation

I love my smartphone as much as the next person. I, too, enjoy compulsively checking First Class, scrutinizing my news feed and systematically liking my friends’ profile pictures.

Illustration by Katie

All in five minutes. Using one device. While listening to music.

But I can’t say I’m thrilled when I see people sitting across the table from each other at Starbucks—all on their phones. Or when I see parents checking their Facebook pages in the doctor’s office rather than talking to their toddlers. Or when I see similar scenes in the Upper School hallways, the dining hall or the Friday night social event.

And I am 100 percent guilty.

In this day and age, there is something deeply, immediately important about staying in constant contact with each other.

We cannot go an hour—much less a day—without communicating through technology. At Hockaday, there are even disciplinary consequences for not replying to emails in a timely manner.

From many angles (both inside and outside of Hockaday), we are pressured to respond, post and re-pin immediately.

Gone are the days when texting and social media are anything new, so I often forget that their constant interruption of our daily life is anything abnormal.

I didn’t think twice about it when an alumna interviewer answered two texts and an email during one of my college interviews.

And on Thanksgiving, I clearly didn’t think at all when I brought my phone to the dinner table with family members I see only twice per year.

For the sake of experiment, I left my phone downstairs during the hour I’m going to spend writing this column. I can’t decide if I’m more distracted by separation anxiety from my favorite piece of plexiglass—or if I’d be more distracted having the thing here with me.

All I want for Christmas is a little uninhibited interaction with my friends and family.

The holiday break begins tomorrow and, by default, increased time with others. Let’s try to make it count.

I’d like to walk into Starbucks and see folks sitting around a table talking to each other rather than tending to their smart phones. I’d like to attend a social event without feeling like I should broadcast my evening plans over one (or four) social media outlets. I’d like to have a conversation with a family member without one of us saying “wait, one second, let me stop and check something real quick.”

We shouldn’t let constant access to instant communication obstruct face-to-face interactions.

Call me archaic, but I think there’s something to be said for not answering 12 texts and checking Twitter/Facebook/Instagram 10 times throughout an evening with friends.

It inhibits the bonds we form with one another. It changes the dynamic of spending time with our friends. And it probably shouldn’t be considered normal.

So before we live tweet Christmas dinner or bring along 10 additional friends (via text message) to our next sleepover, let’s consider taking a few intermittent cell phone vacations—even if just in small increments.

As I’ve neared the halfway mark in my final year at Hockaday, I’ve realized the time we have together is finite. The moments we have to share with this diverse and outstanding group of people is far from boundless.

Even if we don’t reply within the second or minute or (gasp) hour, our friends will still be there. And so will their profile pictures—which we can like, believe it or not, at any time.

But, for good measure, I’d better go get my phone from downstairs and make sure.