A major disclaimer right off the bat here: I am not a movie person. Maybe it’s the old Protestant work ethic drummed into me from my prenatal days, maybe it’s just how my brain is wired, but I always feel like I could / should be doing something more productive with my time than watching movies. Enter my husband: Ivy League grad, physician extraordinaire, man of letters and culture, and a movie buff to his core. Fortunately, some of this rubbed off on me, but not the movies, especially not science fiction movies – more about this in another blog post. Can’t stand science fiction – never could, never will, even after more than three decades with my sci-fi loving husband. My husband loves to point out that I liked E.T. – who didn’t? That launches us into another discussion that goes south rapidly. But this blog post isn’t about sci-fi – it’s about dinner. 

Dinner has always been a special time for us – we always had dinner together in at least a semi-formal manner. My husband’s European family loved long, drawn out dinners, lasting hours at a time. My family had shorter dinners, but nonetheless, we all believed that it was a time for the entire family to get together, to discuss what happened during the day, to discuss politics, science, whatever seemed important at the time. It was time when we all came together and got closer. Of course, as my husband always said, medicine is a harsh mistress. He spent his career a director of intensive care units, caring for the sickest of the sick, so dinners could be unpredictable. It seemed like he was always on-call, so we made the best of it. Dinnertime remained a fixture in our home. When my husband transitioned from clinical practice to research, his hours became less demanding and dinner was a bit more predictable. But by then, the kids were mostly grown and out of the house [except for our youngest – he likes it here too much]. And then it happened.

It happened gradually, kind of sneaking up on us. Dinnertime became quieter. Bit by bit, the silence crept over our home. The conversation had dwindled and then finally stopped. My ever observant husband was the first to speak up: “what the heck is going on here?” We were all having dinner, heads buried in our iPads or cell phones, totally ignoring one another. The silence was deafening. This is when my husband told me about the movie “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” insisting I watch the original rather than one of the remakes. Of course, he provided me and our son with a summary of the movie, complete with historical and social commentary [allegory about the Red Scare of the 1950’s, fear of communists taking over while we slept, etc.]. The original is in black and white, and of course, it is sci-fi, so I don’t plan on watching it if I can possibly avoid it, but the point was made. What the heck happened? When did iPads and cell phones replace actual face-to-face communication? What does this all mean? Where are we going with this? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s not good.

Psychologists and social scientists have had a field day with this and have come up with a few acronyms worth knowing: FOMO and FOKU for starters. FOMO stands for ‘fear of missing out’ and FOKU means ‘fear of keeping up’. Some feel these are akin to anxiety disorders wherein the fear of becoming disconnected or falling behind results in an addiction to our technological tethers. Some have even suggested that there may be a neurophysiological basis for these addictions, very similar to that seen with addiction to alcohol or opiates. We fear not being in the know, or in the case of FOKU, we fear that taking a break from our emails or social media will put us at a disadvantage to our peers, making it difficult to keep up, or catch up.

The fact is that the vast majority of our emails and social media posts are trivial and meaningless … they could all wait until the next day. What can’t wait is the precious time we have to share with our families and friends. Time is the one thing we can’t store up for later … our days are numbered and we need to make them all count. Yes, technology has vastly improved productivity and changed society in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine. But not all of those changes are necessarily for the better. The body snatcher invasion has begun in earnest. Let’s reclaim our lives and start to talk to each other instead of staring dumbly into our devices. [Sigh.] Maybe, just maybe, my husband was right. Anyone want to watch an old black-and-white sci-fi movie from the 50’s with me?

Cheers,

Sandra Fein

Sandra Fein is the Founder and CEO of Reinvention by Design and a member of the Wilmington, Delaware Polka Dot Powerhouse chapter. She has a heart and passion for helping and inspiring women who want to start a new chapter in their lives. Whether it’s you or someone you know and care about, sooner or later life throws us a curve ball resulting in circumstances beyond our control. As a mentor, guide, and accountability coach she supports her client’s journey from the land of self-doubt, fear, and hopelessness to the land of possibility, filled with new opportunities and a new future.