If you came to my house on a typical day, this is what you would see: Charlotte desperately trying to get me to play with her, usually by rolling around the floor and whimpering like a wounded Yorkshire Terrier, and me desperately trying to get her to play by herself so I can do something really important, like check to see how many people have "liked" my new Facebook profile pic. Or play another hand of spades on my iPhone. Or maybe write a blog post so my 13 fans will have some meaning in their lives. Doesn't she know who I am and how many important things I have to do?
Of course, I do have things I need to do. I need to defend against the invasion of toys into another room. I need to cook something to eat so Kevin doesn't have to do another Taco Bell run on his way home (yes, we eat Taco Bell regardless of what their meat actually is. If the FDA hasn't shut it down, we're eating it). I need to read a book, other than the Dr. Suess variety, so I don't forget how. I need to work out, although I don't know why, my body is hell bent on maintaining my new hefty weight regardless of what I do. And I need to pee, preferably alone. But besides the latter, which is not really an option, although tell that to Charlotte, I don't do any of that stuff. No, I just keep mindlessly moving through a series of digital stimulants like some hamster in a bad science experiment. Check email, check Facebook, spades, bridge, sudoku. Check Weight Watchers log to see if I have enough points left for a stick of gum. No, I don't. Start reading an article on cnn.com. Nope, too much mental energy required. Check email. Even though I haven't heard an alert and therefore already know I don't have any email. If I click "check mail" I might get a couple of messages that have come in in the last 1.5 seconds.
I got an iPhone recently, making this routine even easier to maneuver and even more constant. I got the iPhone because I was unable to share the iPod Touch I had earlier bought, ostensibly so Charlotte could play games. Yes, I could not share it with her, even though she plays with it maybe 1 hour a day. I explained to Kevin that I was getting my own iPhone because I thought sharing the iPod with Charlotte was fostering the spread of germs. Which is probably true, it's pretty much encrusted with dried spittle when she gives it back to me. But that is not the real reason I couldn't share, after all I was raised in Africa and ebola doesn't scare me much less some toddler spit. No, the real reason is that I found I could no longer breathe without it in my hand. I bought an iPhone to save my own life, it's true. Now, besides breathing, I can stand in line at Starbucks with the other people that are too important to be disconnected from anyone who knows them for 3 seconds and go through my motions on my iPhone.
And that is what I think a lot of this digital addiction is really all about: Feeling important without doing any meaningful work. And communicating to other people that you are important. Thus the 8 status updates per hour (I carefully limit myself to 1 per day. I don't want people thinking I think I am important. I want them to know I am so important I only have time for 1 per day). Thus the constant email checking and sending. I want a visible, tangible sign that people think I am important. Thus the blogging. I want people to reflect back to me that I am so smart and important that they want to read what I have to say. The spades and bridge, I don't know what that is, just pure crack without any deeper meaning I suppose. The Weight Watchers is pure desperation at this point.
But playing with a 3 year old? Giving her my undivided attention? Where's the pay off, man? She already knows I am important because she doesn't eat without me around. And no one else will know and be impressed by how well I play with a toddler.
Until she robs a bank. Or just becomes a law-abiding bad person. Or just an emotionally needy regular person.
The truth is--I don't have anything better to do than spending quality time with my kids. Partly because I am really that lame. But mostly because there IS nothing better to do. It doesn't really matter if I am fluent in Swahili or well-read. It for damn sure doesn't matter if I have a cute status update that everyone hearts. Or write in this blog. No one cares or is going to die. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to do it, I really do need to feel important. But maybe I could spend more time on the things that actually ARE important. There's a concept.