Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Would You Do?

I watched a powerful video today about the rapidity of shift in our lives. Check it out at http://www.flixxy.com/technology-and-education-2008-alt.htm then ask yourself this:

What if it all ENDS tomorrow?

If the world-wide-web crashed, if TV and satellite and all technology ceased, what would you do? Imagine looking up from your blackened screen into the fear-filled eyes of the masses. Would your thumbs twitch? Would your family sit in stunned silence?

What would you do?

A young mother asked me that very thing recently. She wanted to cause me concern about the loss of data I have stored online. Things like photographs and online books and more. I believe she expected me to panic. Actually, I found the idea rather invigorating. Without a moment’s hesitation I responded, “Wouldn’t that be wonderful! Sure images and data would be lost, but no failed technology can rob me of my stories unless I stop sharing them. My life’s memories are intact as long as I take the time to reflect on them and share them. If the internet failed, I’d be the expert on hand to help everyone learn what I already know - storytelling is the essence of humanity.”

I went on to glory in the idea of families sitting around the dinner table talking. I waxed nostalgic about the return of visiting neighbors clustered on front porches, and the whispered gossip sessions over back fences. The young mother’s eyes got a little dreamy. “I’ve never experienced any of that, wow, what would that be like?”

“Why don’t you find out,” I replied, “In fact, I dare you to try.”

Sometimes, I feel like Don Quixote chasing windmills when I talk about storytelling. There’s been a renaissance over the past 30 years or so in regards to the importance of storytelling. Storytelling festivals have popped up all over the country. Professional storytellers can be found in every state in the union. In deed, storytelling has come to be recognized as an art form. I embrace and applaud all of that. Yet, storytelling as a life skill and core principle of family togetherness has slipped through the cracks.

Family time has devolved into a rush of timelines and orchestration of schedules. Meals are grabbed on the run, or in front of the TV. Communications have collapsed into texted chore charts and check ins.

What if it all ENDS tomorrow?

Do you ever find yourself feeling sad or lonely in a crowded room? Have you had days when you realized no one looked you in the eye, or stopped long enough to listen to how you really are? Do you ever feel like life is zooming by so fast you can’t catch your breath, more or less remember a single thing about yesterday?

Stop. Breathe. Close your eyes and take a moment...

What if we all decided to take a stand? What if we reclaim the family dinner and return to being fully present when our children want to talk about what happened at school and who they have a crush on and who broke their heart? What if, instead of firing off an angry email to those who we disagree with, or who have hurt the ones we love, we sat down and really talked? What if we declared technology free zones once a month, once a week, or once a day where whatever we did had to involve the sharing of story?

Imagine the impact of introducing the up and coming generation to the indescribable joy of listening to some one else’s story.

In a world where WW II vets are dying at the rate of 1000 per day we can’t afford to imagine, we have to act. Think of all that is being lost each time the coffin lid closes over the wrinkled old face of someone people have stopped listening to.

I’m not suggesting we stop technological progress. I’m not presuming we can block the shift. I’m suggesting we make sure we don’t discard our human connectivity in the midst of it all.

After all…the power has gone out before, it will go out again. Will you be ready with a good story?

I can help.


  1. Is that supposed to look like a wagon wheel? :)

    What good insight. I like to think of myself as a family oriented woman, wife, and mother, but reading your thoughts makes me realize how much better I could be. I challenge everyone to take it one step further . . . remove technology from your life for a whole week! I don't know if I can do it myself, let alone not even check my email for one day, but just think about all the family time and stories you could share if there was no TV or computer to turn on. We would have to actually interact with our families!

    Thanks for the reminder to share story with our families Mom.

  2. i agree! i've been thinking a lot lately about how much easier life was without my computer and cell phone (although i'm not complaining) :) But it's true! BYU-I is actually doing this really cool thing next week calls Disconnect to Reconnect. They want people to unplug themselves from their phones and iPods and pay attention to the people around them. Very cool!

  3. Um, if it all technology ended tomorrow, we'd be worrying about a lot more than lost pictures. A lot more. Just saying. Food. Water. Power. Transportation. Banking. Mass confusion and panic.

    Of course, I really wouldn't mind the loss of my digital world, minus the interconnectivity of people. I am just as much at home with a real book as I am with a digital one. And World of Warcraft is easily replaced with a book or two or ten. And while I make backups, I really wouldn't be that upset if I lost them all.

    And of course, one needs to define "tech free," since everything we take for granted is almost always connected to technology.

    Also, it might surprise everyone, but the Internet has made me MORE social, MORE connected; if were to just be turned off, I'd disappear back into my world of books and be just as unwilling to engage in the painful process of relating to people through spoken words and small talk as I was before I discovered the awesome power of Facebook and weblogs. My computer makes it easier and therefore far more likely for me to engage in interaction with people than if I were forced to do it face to face. I no longer lead a solitary existence because of the Internets.

  4. that is a fantastic video. It really does stop and make you think. I went through a whole range of emotions thinking about losing all technology in one crazy outage... I'm always telling people I don't know what I would do without my cell phone. But since I've been a stay at home mom, I find that I don't carry my cell phone with me everywhere. There is something so magical about spending time with my baby away from all the technology; about walking across the street to talk to a neighbor instead of calling them on the phone. My husband and I also got rid of our satellite dish about 3 months ago, and haven't bought a converter box for our TV- so we don't even watch it anymore. And I found we do so much more as a couple, and as a family. It truly is invigorating and EXCITING to think of having no technology for exactly all of the reasons you listed.

    Thank you for your insight. It's blogs like yours that would make me miss technology.