Toys of our ownDecember 8, 2006
BlackBerry Orphans from the WSJ.
Some excerpts that will keep you up at night [free article]:
→ A third-grader in Rome, Ga., says he tries to tell his father to put the BlackBerry down, but can't even get his attention. "Sometimes I think he's deaf," says the 9-year-old.
→ The ninth-grade student in Port Washington, N.Y., says she has caught her parents typing emails on their Treos during her eighth-grade awards ceremony, at dinner and in darkened movie theaters.
→ His dad, private banker Ross Singletary, calls it [typing while driving] "a legit concern." He adds: "Some emails are important enough to look at en route."
→ The children of one New Jersey executive mandate that their mom ignore her mobile email from dinnertime until their bedtime. To get around their dictates, the mother hides the gadget in the bathroom, where she makes frequent trips before, during and after dinner.
→ The therapist advised that the family dinner table be an email-free zone.
→ "Even though I'm home, I'm not necessarily there."
→ Jim Balsillie, the chairman of Research In Motion [creator of the BlackBerry], says children should ask themselves, "Would you rather have your parents 20% not there or 100% not there?"
This article, written mostly in fun, is a phenomenal, frightening window into what we've become - addicts who can't let go of work and wear our busyness as a badge of honor. Notice that most of these examples involve children trying to get their parents to ignore email for just 1-2 hours in the evening. According to Research in Motion, the best our children should expect from us is 80% of our presence. We are very important people, after all.
A generation ago, we defined professional success by freedom, control and delegation. Today, professional success is measured by the number of hours, the number of emails, and the facade of indispensability.
Surely we can do better. I think we've decided that relationships and conversations are simply more trouble than they're worth, especially with our children. We have televisions in our SUV's for 15 minute drives (yes, I've seen them turned on during the neighborhood drive to school in the morning). We have Game Boys for the kids so they don't have to interact with us and we don't have to interact with them. How often do you see families waiting for a table at a restaurant - the father using his Blackberry while his son sits next to him playing his handheld. This under the guise of "going out to dinner together."
At some point, most of us considered forcing our children to put down their iPods, Game Boys, and Playstation Portables and experience life with us instead of around us.
Instead, we decided it was easier to get toys of our own.