I remember day-off-holiday-family-get-together-type-days from when I was a kid; and as today is such a day, I was thinking about what I remember, and about what I miss. Here's the official disclaimer: These are my memories ~ they may or may not accurately reflect what you would see if there had been a video camera set up.
I remember we'd either get together with extended family, or we'd just spend time at home. First, if we had nowhere to go and nothing to get to, we'd sleep in. Or, if we were traveling to meet up with family, we might sleep in a little, but we'd get our stuff together and get on the road. Once everyone had arrived, we'd have dinner. The table was always full with delicious, feast-day foods. It was nice to sit together with everyone for dinner, but it wasn't long after we finished that folks got up. Sometimes, the kids would run around outside. Almost inevitably, though, the grown-ups would participate in one of two activities (you can guess who was where). Some would clean up the table, wash the dishes, store the leftovers either in the fridge or on the counter for grazing, and make to-go bags for each family unit. Others would camp out in front of whatever game was on, usually football.
I realized in the middle of the day that I was at something of a loss. Since our TV isn't located in the middle of our ordinary family activity, and the football games aren't on, I had to actually make conscious decisions about what to do with the day. The default would have been to stuff my face with corn chips and whatever else I could find to eat, while I flipped between whatever games were on. But I didn't, and I kind of miss that.
We have a television in our house, and once in a while we even watch television. Mostly we watch movies, which is tough because movies are better in widescreen, and our television came out before screens were very wide. Once in a while, I start to feel a little superior to families who spend a lot of time watching television. And sometimes I even feel like gloating just a little bit about how I don't know this show, or haven't seen that commercial. But is sitting in front of a computer really all that different from watching television? I work, I watch movies, I watch television shows, I relax, I shop, I waste time ~ all in front of a computer screen.
At least at the family gatherings I remember from when I was a youngster, we sat around the television together. We could cheer together, or root against one another. We could pass snacks back and forth, and fetch each other a drink during the commercials. We could have little pieces of conversation during breaks in the action. When three people are sitting in the same room, but looking at three different laptops, it's much more difficult to do those things. We don't want to spill on a computer, and heaven forbid we'd talk to one another for fear of interrupting whatever important thing the guy at the other end of the couch is doing.
I know I'm not the first to realize this, but I'll say it anyway. Technology has certainly made our lives easier, but I'm not sure it's done anything to improve the quality of our relationships with one another.