Peggy Orenstein, in her New York Times Magazine article this past weekend, considers the impact of opening up her family via Skyping with her parents 1500 miles away. She writes:
Now, I like my parents. A lot. I really do. Thats why I make the 1,500-mile trip to visit them three or four times a year. I did not, however, spend the bulk of my adult life perfecting the fine art of establishing boundaries only to have them toppled by the click of a mouse. If I wanted them to have unfettered access to my life, I wouldnt have put the keep out sign on my room at age 10. I would have lived at home through college. I would have bought the house next door to them in Minneapolis and made them an extra set of keys…
To Skype or not to Skype, that is the question. But answering it invokes a larger conundrum: how to perform triage on the communication technologies that seem to multiply like Tribbles instant messaging, texting, cellphones, softphones, iChat, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter; how to distinguish among those that will truly enhance intimacy, those that result in T.M.I. [too much information] and those that, though pitching greater connectedness, in fact further disconnect us from the people we love.
Every new technology, from the telephone decades ago, to streaming video cams these days, and everything in between, beg many questions about how much information we want to share, where we will draw our boundaries, why, and how.
In this month’s Journal S’hma, I offer some thoughts on how these tools can enrich and starve our Jewish homes, and how we can draw on Jewish concepts of community, home, family and values to guide our intentional decision making about how, when and why we will use (or not use) particular technologies. Because ultimately, it’s not about the technology, it’s about relationships.