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Friday, January 31, 2014

Lessons from My Disney Vacation: Part 2

Lesson 2:  Don't be an "iFamily"!

We have all seen the Disney commercials:
Children racing ahead of their parents into the magical Kingdom
Children pointing with mouths agape as they see Cinderella's Castle for the first time
Families laughing together, playing together, watching fireworks together

It is now a decades-old image of childlike joy, a time of bonding and old-fashioned family "togetherness". For me, it is one of the reasons that I continue to return to Disney World year after year, but the reality of that image is, in my opinion, now at risk of becoming a fairy tale, taken down by the "iFamily"!

Picture this:
We are at Disney World, the most magical place on earth! Families are pouring out of the resort with small children, strollers, and backpacks in tow. One little boy, about the age of 3+, is being dragged by the hand. He jumps, wiggles and manages to move in ways that seem impossible for someone connected by one point to another human being.

We get on the resort bus headed for the Magic Kingdom, and his family sits right across from mine. He looks at me with one eye squinted and loudly says, "I'm going to see Mickey!" He then turns in his seat to look out the window, waiting to see the adventure beyond, when his mother does something incredibly stupid: she taps him on the leg, makes him turn from his magical view and hands him an iDevice.

Immediately, this engaged, excited bundle of energy and enthusiasm melts into the hard, plastic seat and enters a digital world. Head down with earbuds embedded into his skull, he says nothing and sits immobile, frozen in that familiar, digital state ....all the way to the park.
He never noticed the passing monorail
He never saw the arched entryway that welcomes all visitors to the Magic Kingdom.
He never noticed that the castle grew larger and larger as we approached
He didn't see the outside of Space Mountain as the bus started to park
In fact, he didn't even notice that we had stopped and that it was time to get off of the bus!

But, he was not alone! The other families on the bus also seemed to be traveling the same way
Welcome to the age of  the  "iFamily"!

For the next 9 days, on every bus, monorail, ferry, or queue line, this same scenario seemed to be repeated by families from every country and every age! This is not to say that there weren't exceptions, but the "iFamily" dominated to such a degree, that I am actually alarmed!

The really, bad iMommy award goes to one parent I dubbed "The Air Slapper". Her little girl had bounded onto the bus wearing her "1st Visit" badge. Her curly hair shot out from under her rounded Minnie cap, and her little outfit matched the red, polka-dot print of her Minnie bow. She was dressed for the day and her enthusiasm matched her outfit. Following in the "iFamily" motif, all family members selected a seat, digital devices were distributed, ears were plugged, and chins and eyes went down. The aura of the high-tech occupants filled the bus like an oppressive cone of silence, but the girl was not buying into it today and made eye contact with my family.

"I'm going to Disney World", she announced.  (Almost all little people say this--not realizing that we ALL are going together on the same bus).
Her mom, sensing a rift in the technology aura, slapped at the air around her daughter's head.
The little girl wrinkled her nose and dodge the weightless slaps.
Undeterred, the little girl asked, "Where are YOU going?"
"We are going to Disney World!"
"You are?", she asked in surprise!
We started a charming conversation , and  my family laughed and shared stories describing all the wonders she would see on her first visit!!
This conversation was punctuated with occasional air-slapping by the "busy" iMommy.
The girl simply dodged again and kept talking.
Finally, however, Little Minnie Girl went too far. She saw the entry sign of the Magic Kingdom and started squealing with excitement. Up on her knees, her unused digital device slipped and dangled by its earbuds, and she started patting her mother and shouting, "We're here, we're here!"

Her excitement was truly something worth capturing in your heart and memory forever, but "the Air Slapper" came undone. She snatch up the girl's forgotten iDevice, and started yelling. Though there is no way to quote her verbatim , basically it contained the following elements:

Why can't you sit there and be quiet and use your iDevice?
Why won't you leave me alone and let me use my iDevice?
I knew that today was going to be a terrible day!
This trip was a bad idea!
Why do I bother to spend my money to take you to Disney, when you won't do what I ask?

Hmmmm....now, that is a good question:
Why does anyone bother to spend money to come to the most magical place in the world only to immerse oneself in a personal digital world that can be accessed from your couch at home?
(And yes, I have seen the new commercial for Universal Studios. I'm not sold!)

Like Pinocchio's desire to be a "real boy", I desire to see "real families", not "iFamilies".
Yes, technology has given us so much, but it has also taken away a great deal.  There has to be a balance!

Fight for the simple pleasures
Put your children before your devices
Communicate with those at the table and in the room instead of those who are miles away
Come out from behind the lens of your iPhone pictures 

The lesson: Don't be an "iFamily"!
Whether we are at home or having the adventure of our life, we all need to really SEE and EXPERIENCE our real lives....for real!


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