Wired or Weird?

Anagrams are fun. A favourite is Elvis – Lives. George Bush – He bugs Gore isn’t bad either, even though it’s a little outdated. How about this anagram as a commentary on today’s electronically enhanced family life: wired – weird.

In many homes with more than one computer or other wireless devices, teens will sometimes communicate with their siblings–in other rooms of the same home–via FaceBook rather than face-to-face. That’s a little weird. Really.

Or how about Sunday mornings on the way to church? The two pre-teens in the backseat are both hooked up by their MP3 players to their own little musical bubbles, while the 5-year-old seated in the middle is playing Super Mario on his Nintendo DS. Up front Mum and Dad ride merrily along, just happy Junior isn’t fighting.

What about those evenings when Dad comes home from work and the only family member who greets him at the door is the lonely, increasingly scrappy dog. Mum’s busy racking up the bargains on eBay and the kids are wrapped up in social media or YouTube or Xbox. “Hello?” Dad calls out. “Hello…hello…hello…,” an echo replies. He shrugs, hangs up his coat, and logs on.

Isn’t this a strange way to do family life? Why aren’t we parents disgruntled? (Interesting anagrams for disgruntled – lets rid drug or net slid drug! Ooh! – tis drug led.)

The wired life is seductive. It weasels its way in, providing a tantalising array of information, bargains, contacts, destressors, and entertainment. There’s no disputing the fact that electronics add convenience. But do they enhance family life? Will we one day emerge from the digital haze and wonder where the years went, when Billy got so tall, how Martha became so pretty, and what ever happened to that scrappy dog, Whatsitsname? Will we feel horribly cheated when we realise that we traded precious moments to relate and communicate and make memories for the ephemeral friendships of FaceBook and the bargains of eBay?

One American pastor of an internet-based church decided it was time to unplug his family. The results were brilliant. Unplugged life might provide more opportunities for conflict, but it in is those moments of sibling disagreement where kids hone important social skills, such as empathy, assertiveness, and negotiation. Can cyberspace possibly offer such great learning moments? Highly doubtful. Sure, less reliance on electronic entertainment might require more thinking and imagination, but wonderful opportunities to develop creativity and problem-solving emerge.

One last anagram to finish: social media – liaised coma.  Even better: adios malice.