This week, we welcome guest columnist Allia Layne Shaver, age 15.
The challenge to use my technology time wisely has been a struggle for me. I have heard, “Allia, put that phone away!” many, many times. I really like technology—iPhones, iPads, iTunes, and more. I’ve had an iPhone since I was 3 years old, but only because I have severe food allergies and asthma. Back then, my phone was only for emergencies. It stayed in my asthma and allergy bag with my EpiPen, inhaler, and other medicines. I still keep my phone in my allergy bag some of the time, but it is more often found in my hand. That has been the cause of me getting into trouble at least once, maybe twice…okay, more than twice.
My grandparents were not “raised with technology” like people my age were. When they were teenagers, they did not have cell phones or tablets. They didn’t have desktop computers in school or even in the public library. We have had so many amazing advances in technology! When I compare those advances to what my grandparents did NOT have when they were growing up, it is quite a technology gap from their generation to mine. I set out to close some of that gap when I started teaching them how to use their iPhones.
First, I put my phone down and asked them what it was like for them growing up. They did have phones, but they were landlines that were called party lines, where several of their neighbors all shared the same phone line. No privacy! My grandparents didn’t have television until they were young adults, and then it was in black and white with only a few channels. They could not binge watch a favorite show. No streaming Netflix, Hulu, or Disney. They did have a radio show that they could listen to, with their imaginations to help them “see” what the characters looked like. Their FaceTime meant sitting on the front porch facing each other and talking. I could see that teaching them to use their smartphones was going to be very interesting, and it was!
My Pappy said his fingers were not made for sending text messages. He was a carpenter and built beautiful homes throughout West Virginia. He built keepsake doll houses, barns for my toy horses, and elaborate Lego sets for his grandchildren. He was an artist! He tried texting, but his messages looked like hieroglyphics. I tried to teach him voice texting with Siri. He didn’t get along with her. He did learn how to call and FaceTime. All of his children and grandchildren benefited from his new skills. My Nanna can text and FaceTime and keeps in touch with all of us. She lives in Florida now. I miss her, spending time with her, cooking with her, her cooking, watching “Heartland” and Hallmark together.
I have been taught that spending time with people is always more important than spending time on my phone. Connecting to my phone when I was with family or friends was really disconnecting me from the people I care about. Forgetting that could result in loss of phone privileges. The pandemic turned that lesson around a bit for me and probably for most of us. Time with my family and friends during the pandemic was made possible by technology. My education continued with the use of technology.
When my grandfather was sick and in the hospital, we couldn’t see him in person. I visited with him on FaceTime every day. When he was home on hospice and we knew that he only had a little time left with us, I was able to see him the night before he died, but other family members were far away. Technology allowed all of his children and grandchildren to see him virtually and be with him the day he died. They were able to tell him how much they loved him, say goodbye, tell him it was okay for him to go Home when he was ready, and that they would take care of Nanna for him.
I miss my Pappy! I have a video of him on his 90th birthday. He is making the sweetest speech, thanking all of us for being his family. He started crying and couldn’t finish what he wanted to say. He became quiet; almost everyone was crying. I almost cried but instead I said, “And he wanted me to tell you all that I am his favorite.” He started laughing; we all did. He was then able to finish what he wanted to say. I keep that video on my phone and can watch it when I need to cry and when I need to laugh with him again. Lesson learned—technology can sometimes disconnect us from people, but more importantly, it can be used to help us connect with them. — Allia Layne Shaver