Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I got to see Fred Penner a couple of weeks ago. 

photo credit: CBC

It was marvelous. Also, it turns out I wasn't crazy... a song I always sing to myself that I thought was actually me mixing up two different songs... turns out it's a Fred Penner song from my childhood. 

So thank-you, Mr. Penner, for reassuring me of my mental status. 

But seriously, it was lovely. We took 3/4 kids to the fair, where Fred Penner was doing a show. Abby had day camp that day. While we were sad that Abby missed it, she simply doesn't do well at the fair. Too many noises, too many people, too many weird smells. It's strictly an indoor-agricultural affair, so you can imagine that it can sometimes be... aromatic. 

Fred, he was in the amphitheatre, far away from the livestock. As we settled in, most adults had glowing screens in their hand. That was fine by me - I'm not a Luddite. I like technology. I happen to be the only person I know without a cell phone - smart or dumb - but I understand that they are handy little devices. I don't own one mostly for financial reasons instead of any ideological ones.

I was really surprised when no one put their smartphones away when he came out on stage. 

The woman next to me texted, tweeted, snapped photos and otherwise didn't disengage from her phone the entire show. C'mon! It was Fred-freaking-Penner! How can you not be totally engrossed? I mean, she was paying attention to the show - as far as I could tell without actually reading over her shoulder, all her "content" was related to the experience - but her phone was part of that engagement. 
photo credit: Kristen Nicole

I was amused. Silly woman, I thought to myself. I assumed she was surely an aberration.

Fast forward a to a few days later, and I find myself in another theatre. This time, we're at the local concert hall partaking in the latest Koba show to hit town. If you're unfamiliar with Koba shows, let me explain. You know all those characters that your preschoolers like to watch on TV? Yeah, grown men and women put on plushy costumes of those characters and dance around on stage belting out preschool-appropriate show tunes. 

My kids go gaga over it. They got tickets for Christmas from one of their uncles. I personally think it's a living hell, but the things I will do for my kids (but I digress...).

photo credit: Nelvana
So as I'm watching a 6-foot-tall Mike the Knight dance around on stage, I notice that the people in front of me have their smart phone held up, recording. 

The person beside them has one. 

And the next person. And the next. 

Looking around, I realize that nearly every adult in the concert hall was recording with, or engaged with, that little glowing screen. 

I was confused.  Or maybe I wasn't. 

With four kids, I spend a lot of time in doctor offices. I've also seen my own doctor a lot lately for some ongoing issues. One thing I've noticed is the way people simply can't put their phones down in places like waiting rooms. In a room full of people, the silence is deafening. I realize that we're not there to socialize or chat people up, but there's an oddity being in a room with 30 other people without the accompanying sounds of humanity.

Now, I'm not the first person to notice this - for years there's been things like little games or rules to keep people from picking up their phones during dinner. I do use social media, and I see picture of dinners and cats and all other sorts of personal flotsam that ultimately stems from the ubiquitousness of smartphones. But those two shows really revealed to me, apparently for the first time, just how much it has permeated every aspect of our existence. 

It wasn't until a week or so later that I realized just what it was that surprised me so much about. 

photo credit:

I've been very interested in Minimalism for awhile now. Mostly that's a matter of necessity, with the number of people in our house and a finite amount of space (as well as a finite budget). Part of this philosophy is the idea of giving your children experiences instead of things. This is a very "in" thing to do right now, even if you're not trying to embrace the whole Minimalist mindset. 

But it's so odd to me that we can't seem to experience something simply for the sake of the experience. We need to record it, tweet it, snapchat it, blog about it (ha ha ha...!), and otherwise capture the moment for posterity. We simply can't just be. in. the. moment. 

I often struggle with the role technology should play in our daily lives. There are times I do feel like a Luddite because there's so much we simply choose not to have, even though we do have lots of technology in our household. We have tablets and laptops. We watch Netflix and YouTube. Really, now that I think about, all we're missing are smartphones or any kind of "wearable" technology. Yet that somehow makes a huge difference. Maybe because it makes it easier to disengage when we chose to. Maybe because it forces us to simply savour a moment instead of creating an electronic trail of experiences. Maybe because it helps me feel more like a discrete person instead of another cog in the great Social Media Spectrum. 

Maybe I'll disengage now and go outside with the kids. It's promising to be beautiful out today. 

1 comment:

  1. I don't own a cell phone either...mainly because I don't leave home enough to need one! :)