Apparently not having a smartphone has made me a horrible friend.
I'm not available 24/7 via phone, email, and social media. Even when I have my ancient Star Trek communicator cell phone with me, I sometimes let it go to voicemail if I've designated whatever activity I'm doing as phone-free time. I want to be in the moment with the people I'm with, not checking in with my phone every few minutes. I want to experience life as it's happening here in the real world, not in cyberspace. And no matter how much of your real life you post in cyberspace, it's not the same as the real world - my real world.
It's not that I don't care about you. I do. But I don't feel the need to be relentlessly connected to you, to respond to your every text, your every post, your every phone call with the immediacy you may think it deserves. If it were a crisis, yes, of course I'd answer! I wouldn't hesitate to respond. But every worry, every bad moment, every cool thing, every joy, does not need my immediate condolence or applause. I do not need to know what you are doing every second of every day, nor do I want you - or anyone - to know what I'm doing every moment of every day.
I'm not trying to be insensitive to you, I'm trying to be sensitive to my needs and the needs of those around me. My children deserve to have all of me, my complete attention, when we're playing, singing, working on a project, teaching, learning, watching a movie together, and, most essentially, when we're sharing a meal together. They don't need me to be distracted by a device. They deserve the sacred space that can only be made in a technology-free setting.
I sometimes don't get online or look at a phone for twelve entire hours. It's not because I'm not concerned about how my friends and loved ones are doing, it's because if it was something important, the message you leave on my old fashioned answering machine - the kind where you can hear the message as it's being left - will indicate such and I'll pick up the phone if I'm there, or get back to you if I'm not. Your name on my cell phone when I'm not expecting a call from you will alert me to the seriousness of your call.
One more confession before I go - I also don't catch up on facebook like a good friend "should." If I've been "gone" for six hours or more, there's just too much to sift through and I just don't have the time. I do often go to close friends' pages to quickly update myself, but at times that's not even possible. I know. I suck. But I can no longer let social media and being at the beck and call of one electronic device or another get in the way of living my life and enjoying the people around me.
And no, my kids don't have cell phones. Not even my teens. They won't until they have driver's licences and jobs and can pay for their own. And even then, their cell phones will not be allowed at the table, or during family time, or in their rooms when they're supposed to be sleeping. And not for my peace of mind, but for theirs. It's my job as a parent to feed, clothe, love, teach, and set a good example for my kids - and to make sure they get a good night's sleep. I'll listen for their friends' emergency calls and alert my kids if necessary during the night. It's just one more service I'll be willing to provide. They can thank me later, after they get over being bad friends for not being relentlessly connected.