Live in real time
“You said you wanted to speak with me?” Jaden came out of her room for the first time on that Saturday morning. Her earphones were still plugged in both ears and her eyes were still glued to her new phone. Jaden had gotten a new phone the previous weekend as a birthday gift from her father. It was the first official phone that she’d be using, and she had been excited when she first found out that she would be getting a new phone. She had been the only one that wasn’t using a phone that mattered amongst her friends. As a result, they always left her out of discussions, gossips and trending conversations because they thought she would not get it.
Now she had a phone. She was arguably the happiest child on the street. Jaden’s phone had been the object of her affection since she got it the previous weekend. Now she was on twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and she could relate with all the discussions amongst her friends. She felt alive, and she had promised herself that nobody would come in between her and her smartphone – until her mom had to do the separation. Her mom had collected the phone from her on Wednesday saying that she had lost focus on her academics.
After a lot of pleading, Jaden got her phone back on Friday, immediately after school and went into her room. She hadn’t come out of her room until this moment.
“Yes,” Jaden’s mom, Mrs Peterson replied. She had knocked on the door to her daughter’s room and hour ago and met her busy with her phone, with her earphones locked in her ears and had told her she wanted to speak. That was an hour ago. “Why are you just coming out, Jaden? I asked to see you an hour ago,” she stood up. She had been kneeling by the kitchen drawer searching a kitchen utensil.
Jaden didn’t hear that her mother was talking to her already. She didn’t pay attention as her eyes were fixed on the screen of her phone.
“Jaden!” Mrs Peterson shouted, grabbing her daughter’s attention. “You want me to ground you off phones for the whole school year, right?”
Jaden, who was still shaken, paused the music on her phone and removed the ear blocks finally. “I am sorry, I didn’t know you were talking to me already.”
“Why are you just coming out? I asked to see you more than an hour ago. What have you been doing?” She tried hard to maintain a friendly voice as she started taking out all the plates from the dishwasher.
“Oh,” she looked at her phone again “I was…,” she blinked “I was doing some assignments,”
“On your phone?” Mrs Peterson frowned.
“Yes mom,” she looked at her phone again, hoping her mom would not notice that she was lying. “Online work. You won’t understand. Was that one hour ago when you knocked?” She looked at her phone one last time to check the time and then dipped it into her pocket and joined her mother beside the kitchen cabinet.
“Look,” Mrs Peterson took out another plate from the dishwasher and placed it beside Jaden. “When I was your age, growing up in Florida, I didn’t have a phone. In fact, there was nothing like smartphones. Most people still used the phone boot. There was hardly any internet. Maybe only the one used by NASA.”
“Really?” Jaden picked the second plate and cleaned it with the towel she had taken from the cabinet. “Are you sure that’s true? Because you are only a few years older than Mark Zukerburg. He invented Facebook.” She grinned at her mom. She liked showing her mom that she knew stuff. “Part of the online assignment,” she maintained the grin.
“What I am saying is, there was limited access to the internet. Only the very rich kids had very little time to access the internet when I was growing up. Smartphones didn’t even exist, and you know what? We lived our lives, and we enjoyed every bit of our childhood.”
“Hmmm, how is that even possible? Living a life without snapchat, without any connection to friends online, how did you people even survive?” She continued cleaning the dishes.
“That’s the exact point, Jaden. We didn’t see the need to connect online when we could actually connect physically. We didn’t need snapchat when we actually had a life.”
“Are you saying I shouldn’t be on social media? I should not connect with my friends and know everything about almost everyone living in the world?”
“No, Jaden,” she took out the last dish from the dishwasher and handed it to Jaden “social media has its own perks, but I fear that they are fast becoming injurious. What does it matter if you know everything about everyone in the world when you know so little about the people that actually matter in your life?” Mrs Peterson washed her hands and left her position to rest her back on the cabinet opposite her daughter.
“I don’t understand you, mom?” She made a questioning look at her mom.
“For example, how many times did you come out of your room after you collected your phone yesterday?” She folded her arms against her chest.
“I came out to get my food in the night,” she was not really getting her mom’s point.
“How many times have we spoken since you got your phone back yesterday?”
Jaden was silent. That moment was the first time they would be speaking since she got her phone. It was dawning on her.
“Have you seen Poppy all morning?” Mrs Peterson asked. Poppy was the dog that Jaden loved so much.
“I was about to ask. Where is he?”
“He got into an accident yesterday.”
“What?” Jaden panicked. “How come I didn’t hear about that?”
Mrs Peterson tightened her lips. “You couldn’t have heard. You were busy connecting with every other person all over the world.”
“Where is he?” Her eyes shook continuously.
“He is fine. Your dad took him to the veterinary doctor this morning. You didn’t know about that too,” Mrs Peterson sighed. She saw the remorse on her daughter’s face. “Come here, Jaden,” she stretched one arm affectionately.
Jaden walked into her mom’s embrace.
“Social media is good, but don’t let the things happening behind the screen obsess you so much that you forget the people and the things that truly matter. It is safe to say that only one percent of the things on social media are true. The rest are exaggerations, lies, and anything that’d make people look good. Don’t get caught in the social media web. The real world is out here. You need to place your priorities right, okay?”
“Yes mom. I never saw it that way. I’ll never let social media take my eyes off the things that really matter from now on. My parents, my education, my real friends and my dog,” she smiled and held her mother tightly in embrace.