Norman Rockwell’s paintings idealized the family unit and I like to imagine that my family fits inside the strokes of his masterpieces. I envision the idyllic family centered around the dinner table enjoying Sunday dinner, smiling and bonding. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is, my family is the exact opposite of the classic images produced by Rockwell’s brush.
Yes, we have the typical family – grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the family dog. However, there are times when it feels like we have one additional family member. I consider her the black sheep of our family, ostracized, because she’s always lurking or hiding.
She doesn’t get a seat at the dinner table or a mention when Grandma writes her annual holiday letter. Her presence, however, is felt at every get together or family function, hiding or vibrating underneath the table. Chaos almost always ensues when she shows up, rendering our family completely dysfunctional and unable to communicate.
In our family, this “other” member is Technology. Our family has a love/hate relationship with her. We want to embrace Technology and invite her lovingly into our homes – we really do.
It’s easy to notice when Technology has been glitching- you begin to hear people yelling across the house instead of texting each other. You might even overhear an occasional swear word uttered when the wireless network goes down. Technology gets blamed when Grandpa can’t program the clock on the microwave and Mom can’t figure out how to open a photo message on her flip phone. At times, Technology is completely incompatible with our family.
My family has varying levels of computer savviness which really hinders the ability to communicate. Technology has the power to annihilate our family infrastructure when we aren’t able to connect easily. My younger cousins prefer to text, but Mom still prefers her corded phone in the living room. My Grandma loves to create and print cards online to “snail” mail later, but she doesn’t understand Facebook feeds or instant messaging slang.
The technical terminology has caused issues among the older family members. My Dad assumed hashtags were a breakfast treat and Mom was convinced “selfies” were a new medical condition.
My parents, also known as “digital immigrants”, are trying to master technology. They just can’t keep up the pace with their grandchildren who have already mastered social media and a plethora of handheld devices. Our family had to make a conscious decision to bridge the generation gap and rely on vocabulary that everyone could understand.
Technology was making it more and more difficult for our family to easily stay in touch among the different generations. We needed to examine how Technology hindered our communication skills. A few family members prefered to receive texts, a couple only used Facebook or email, and we had a handful who enjoyed conversations and letters. We decided that everyone needed to go old school and implement face-to-face interactions. It was also decided to stick with one or two basic communication formats so everyone was included in family discussions.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, Technology is a wonderful addition to our family when she works. We were able to email family members and set up a chat to plan the family reunion. Technology allowed us to keep informed of how Uncle Don was feeling after surgery and she helped cousins from across the country organize a benefit on Facebook to raise funds for my cousin’s son.
Our family may not be the perfect image of Rockwell’s world. My Grandfather still grumbles about how hard it is to find paper to feed to his reliable dot matrix printer and Nana can’t understand why he has to use that “new fangled contraption”. My cousins still argue over charge cords and who has dibs on the outlet first, but we have finally made peace with Technology.
We are a loving family that took time to bond and recognized the dysfunction Technology was wreaking in our family.