FaceTiming With Family Is The Absolute Worst
If you’re reading this, dear family of mine, I’m sorry. I will still give you all the FaceTime you desire, even though this is really how I feel: I hate it and any other form of video chatting that technology has thrust upon me. And I hate how incredibly guilty saying that makes me feel.
I’ve never been huge into phone conversations, but when I got my first cell, I was thrilled with the freedom it gave me. I can chat while walking through the city and living my life, getting shit done (though I’m certain I was doing nothing important). I crave long conversations when I’m out, because they make my walks go by faster. At home, the phone is something I try to use only while washing dishes or cooking. Because of my ADHD, I actually pay better attention to conversations when I’m doing something else. But if my attention does wander no one can tell; no feelings are hurt, no time wasted. And yeah, not a single eye roll is caught.
Then came the iPhone, and the kid shortly after that. FaceTime was just one of many intrusions into our inner sanctum. Somewhere along the line, the family decided that seeing our faces all the time was a right, not a privilege. They now make appointments in advance, and my husband and I fight over which side of the family gets to see the little one reach for the phone and try to hang it up. We are not allowed to pretend we’re not home.
We both work, so we only have a little more than two hours with that guy at the end of the day, which is not much when eating takes 45 minutes of negotiation. After dinner is when we’d like to have some good cuddle-wrestle time, or build a Lego tower that reaches the ceiling, or read everything there is to know about dinosaurs and monkeys. Then comes that shrieking ring.
“Hi! Can you see me?” “Turn the phone sideways!” “Hi!” “Don’t press the button!” “Hi! Wave hi!” “Turn a light on, we can’t see your face!” “Don’t press the button. Talk!” “He was just talking a minute ago.” “Want to sing something?” “Come back! OK!”
In what way does this resemble talking in real life?
Regardless of which of us is assigned to be on this call, it is inescapable throughout our small house. There is no being the silent spouse in the other room. You can, but it’s rude. So everything in the household stops for this painfully awkward interaction. And once it does, no actual conversation happens, because everyone’s so busy looking at each other and putting on some kind of performance (Tableau: “Happy Family at Home, Not at All Interrupted”). Conversations of substance now have to happen during standard calls later; one chat for the price of two. God, remember when cell and long distance minutes were precious, so you’d try to make calls matter?
And why do we actually want to see each other? All grownups look like zombies on FaceTime, with dark under-eye circles and double chins magnified a thousandfold. Seriously, there are plastic surgeons who have capitalized on this fact. David Foster Wallace foretold it all in Infinite Jest, btw.
Kids, meanwhile, act like zombies in front of the screen. My son doesn’t do any of the fun things he was doing just a minute before this happened. Sometimes, he does decide to do something, like finish his puzzle or read a book—things I really like him doing. But whoever is on the other side starts clamoring to see his face, or trying to distract him from his task.
It’s so close to bedtime, and all I really want is to give the kid milk and read to him. But someone on the other end wants to sing and dance and make him sing and dance. Who cares if it riles him up and makes it hard for him to sleep?
As I’ve been ranting, I realize one major factor in all of this: I am an introvert. Judging by the way my son clams up during classes and playgroups he is too, for the moment. When we want comfort or pleasure, our first instinct is to turn to each other or to our own silence. This is not the case for basically everyone else in our family. That means they’re all going to take this personally. Please understand: I love you guys. I just don’t need to see your beautiful faces to do it.
(Image via Shutterstock)