One of my co-workers and her husband travel regularly from Detroit to Burlington, Vermont, which is about a 14 hour car trip, and I once asked her if they listened to music or books on tape while they traveled. "Oh no," she said brightly. "We just talk. We always have lots to say to one another."
Lest you think this is a couple of starry eyed newlyweds, I must tell you that they will celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary this summer.
This conversation came to mind tonight while my husband and I were waiting for dinner, sitting outdoors at the little cafe located a short bike ride away from our house. I was gazing peacefully across the lake, watching the herons diving for their own evening meal. And Jim was -well, totally immersed in communion with his telephone.
A couple of weeks ago, he got a new cell phone that allows him to connect to the Internet anywhere. You can surf while standing in line at the grocery, while waiting for dinner in the restaurant, while riding in the car (suddenly, he's all too happy for me to do the driving, so he can play with his telephone).
Is there a word that describes the willful destruction of an electronic object - cybercide? Or a word for divorce caused by alienation of affection secondary to the Internet?
I realized tonight what an inordinate amount of time my husband spends staring at a screen-televsion, computer, and now telephone. Of course, I'm no slouch when it comes to cybersurfing. Just last night, we were both standing at the kitchen counter, staring at our individual laptops, racing to see who could be first to find the site to download a song we'd heard earlier in the day.
But I find myself resenting his constant immersion in all things electric. "I can see I need to start bringing a book everywhere we go," I remarked this evening.
"Why's that?" he asked, without even looking up.
"Since you're so enthralled with that telephone, I need some way to pass the time," I answered.
"Oh for pete's sake," he said, shoving the little stylus back into its slot.
But then we sat in silence until our burgers arrived.
Sometimes I wonder if our reliance on electronic devices for entertainment and communication has gotten out of hand, if its hampered our ability to communicate with people in the real world and in real time. When Jim and I drive to Florida, we stock up on audio books, and dowload movies onto our laptops. Frankly, I can't imagine what we'd talk about on a 14 hour car trip.
Of course, it wasn't always that way. Before we were married, we talked on the phone for hours every night, even if we'd been together during the day. And we wrote letters -ten pages or more! -everyday when we were in college and separated by the whopping distance of 32 miles. In those days we were like my friend and her husband - there was always plenty to talk about.
But it seems we've become more interested in virtual communication than in exerting the effort to communicate with each other. So we fall prey to an increasing sense of isolation and disconnection with one another.
Perhaps every couple should take a long road trip now and then, with no electronic distractions allowed, and see how many things they can find to talk about.
How about you? Have electronics impacted communication in your relationships?