The other day a friend told me about a weekend conference taking place on women and technology. Since I am a woman investigating technology, I thought I should check it out. As I could not attend in person, I streamed in via the web. Unfortunately, the first video I encountered spooked me so deeply that I never made it back to see what else was happening. So I am sorry to say that I can only report on this first presentation, but perhaps there is enough here to work with. The video was from a mommy blogger/expert, dressed in a tan business suit and patterned scarf, who offered tools for mommies traveling to this or any conference and leaving their children with a caretaker. She offered the following three tips:
1. Mommies should make sure to arrange ahead of time when she will call to speak with her children. The times chosen should be hours when the children will be available to speak.
2. The mommies should make sure to alert the caretakers to any times in the day that might be particularly stressful for their children, as in instrument-practicing or homework time. (Insert emoticons for wink and smile here.)
3. Mommies should review, with the caretakers and children, any chores for which the children are responsible, making sure that everyone is on board with the children’s tasks while the mommies are away.
These were her tools for traveling mothers. Now I may be old-fashioned but these tools, to me, sounded like what used to just fall under the heading, “being a parent,” or perhaps just “being a human.” I wondered, do we really need a PowerPoint presentation from a mommy expert to tell us to call our children when they are available to come to the phone? I was so frightened by the strangeness of these expert suggestions that I had to call a friend to come over and watch it with me, to make sure I wasn’t alone in my alarm. My friend was less spooked but did find it humorous in an odd way, saying that it reminded her of an instructional video on how to slice a mango.
The Internet boom is creating a technological language around what used to just be part of basic human interaction and relatedness. Will we soon need to be advised to say hello when greeting another person, to hug our child when she cries, prevent her from falling out of a window? If we have a relationship with our children and our caretaker (which presumably we do if we are leaving our children in their care), do we really need tools for how to function? We are developing a science and an industry around what is just plain being connected, and congratulating ourselves on the packaging of our new expert findings. There is something eerily unnerving about a woman streaming into my home, appearing on my desk, and telling me that I should communicate and have a relationship with the person with whom I entrust my children.
What’s the big deal you might ask? So what if we are repeating the obvious, as if it were something terrific and worth dialoguing about? The big deal or poisonous part of all this is that our focus is now on packaging life rather than living it. Creating instructional videos on what we previously considered living life is turning life into an object, and worse, a product. Life has become a something that we relate to through a strategy or marketing plan. We are experiencing life through a middle-woman, an expert, who is voicing over our own existence.
Of course it is important to spend time thinking about what our children need and what we need when we are away (and when we are home). And of course we must dialogue with all those in our life about how we can best take care of each other, but can’t we do all this without turning it into a program, without aiming a laser pointer at it? In truth, we do not need instructional videos on how to be. We are human beings, after all. The new science and language around what is really just living as an interdependent human being is reinforcing the belief that being is something that we must be do, and usually for a fee. We are convincing ourselves that we need these new structures to know what we already know — be who we already are.
While it may put a dent in several new industries, in fact, being human is an item that we can safely remove from our current “to do” list. We do not need a roll-out strategy or search engine optimization expert to teach us how to create what already is. What we need to do is throw out the manuals and all those who tell us that we need them in order to be who we already are. Thankfully, the majesty of our basic human being-ness, of life itself, is greater than anyone or any technology could ever create.