This week, I’m the one with the question. And it was formed over a period of a few weeks, while watching my children as well as my nieces and nephews and some of my friends’ children. Practically all of them have a tablet, iPhone, or gadget of some sort that they either play games on or use watch cartoons/YouTube on. No, this has nothing to do with parenting and allowing kids to use electronic devices, so don’t worry. What I noticed with almost each and every one of those children is that when something comes on the screen that they don’t want to see, a “boring part” or a (GASP!) ad, they skip over it. These kids are always swiping right or left. They want to be entertained at all times. They can’t handle when something bores them. They don’t know what to do.
I’m not just referring to tablets; I’m referring to life, as well. I was watching a television show with my daughter, and when a commercial came on, she asked me to skip it because it’s boring. True, it was boring; but if the younger generation gets rid of boredom by swiping or skipping, then how will they be able to deal with boredom and the fact that life isn’t always fun. How many times have I or other parents heard, “Ugh! That’s boring! I don’t want to do that!” when we suggest something that we feel is fun to keep the kids entertained? And how many times have we all said, “When I was your age, telephones were attached to walls and all you could do is talk into them without any FaceTime and without picking out a ringtone.” During car trips, I find myself saying, “All I did was look out the window and try not to fight with my sister,” when asked the question if one of my children can have a phone or tablet when we are in the car for a drive that takes longer than five minutes. I’ve asked children other than my own what they do in school when the teacher is teaching them about something they don’t find interesting. They can’t swipe right or left with the teacher. When I was younger, if I chose to stay indoors and watch TV rather than going out to play, my mother told me (and I found myself telling my kids, this past summer), “I’ll pack up and go to Amish Town where they don’t allow TV or phones. Get outside!”
My generation, and generations that came before, actually had to play games that required using your whole body and interacting with others. That’s how our social skills were developed. If there was a boring commercial on or even a boring science teacher, we had to sit our way through it (and possibly learn something). I worry about this younger generation, which are used to snapping their fingers and, in an instant, having what they want to appear on their phones or tablets. And I’m not just worried about their social skills or getting to be hunchbacks because they stare down at the electronic gizmo or their eyes being affected by the light on the screen (well, I am concerned about those things, but they aren’t my main concerns); I’m worried about how this will affect their dating lives and their lives thereafter.
I’ve read little snippets on social media here and there where people who set up “coffee dates” – so they aren’t forced to spend hours with a date if they feel the match isn’t shayach – have cut the short date short by leaving after a half hour. I read, “It was just boring. Not interesting. I had to disengage ASAP.” Excuse me? You met someone in a coffee shop, spoke with him or her for barely half an hour, and you’re bored? Now you think there isn’t anything more to learn or to even begin to like about this person? Instead of speaking about jobs, family, or friends, you want a stranger to start talking about the time he/she got drunk with friends? Or how about when you ended up in the ER after a bike ride gone awry? Do the people who “disengage” after meeting someone for only 30 minutes expect action and adventure straight off the bat? Well, guess what? It’s not reality. Reality is sometimes (actually most of the time) dull and boring, and that’s okay. We need some balance to the excitement we experience. If a friend discusses something you have no interest in, do you ask the friend to move on because you’re bored, roll your eyes, or just find a place inside your mind to visit until this boring drivel is over? No, you try to be a good friend and pay attention, because that’s what you would want them to do if the situation were reversed.
How many times have we seen an Instagram picture of someone on vacation in paradise – and later find out the post is fake? People feel that they must fake it to the world – to those they don’t know – that their life is glamorous. But guess what? We know that you have dull days when time passes so slowly you begin to wonder about things that you never thought of before, such as, “When we’re young, we sneak out of our house to go to parties. When we’re old, we sneak out of parties to go home.” Or “It’s not fair that coffee stains your teeth brown, but milk doesn’t stain them white.” Life is boring. Get used to it. Even married life is boring at times. You and your spouse can sit in a room or car together for hours and not say a word to each other; you could be reading, watching a tablet, knitting… and then when you have children, you pray for those quiet, boring moments. And when you are finally lucky to find such a moment, you end up falling asleep. That’s just the way it is.
Stop watching others act, as its their real life. Go out and live yours. If you feel the need to be entertained, then imagine that you are on a hidden camera show about dating, and when your date says something that you don’t understand or is boring, a thought bubble would appear so the viewing audience can read what witty thoughts you may have about the moment. Or better yet, try paying attention – you may find something that you thought was boring is suddenly interesting. It’s happened to me. I found out more about the stock market, Bitcoin, and Minecraft than I ever thought I’d need to know from dates. But now and then, those nuggets of information come in handy. No one is living their best life ever and then posting about it because they are living their life and don’t care what others think and they don’t need the attention.
There are times I have been out in a café or restaurant and was able to spot a couple on a date. I dare say that there have been a couple of instances where one person of the couple picks up a cell phone to either text, email, tweet, post – I realize that people have lives and time stands still for no one. For the urgent call, I can understand. I once dated a doctor, and he apologized for the two times our date was interrupted by his phone. That is very understandable. I once dated someone who told me at the very start of the date that his parents were flying to Israel and will text him when they land safely – again, very understandable. I’m referring to the times when I saw the male or female pick up a cell phone and casually scroll or text when the dining partner is at the table also at the table and not using the restroom. Once you get to know the person, feel free to do what you like.
Take the time to give the person sitting across from you a chance. Don’t we all know a couple that seem like total opposites, yet are in love and have been for years? You wonder what one sees in the other. They probably took the time to find out about the person and didn’t run when the person said he/she was a taxidermist or a tax accountant. They stayed around and found what they liked, what interests they have, etc. Anything worthwhile takes time. We must invest time if we want to reap the rewards, which are love, marriage, and children. Look at who you are with; ask yourself if you can look below the surface or what you can learn about him/her in the half hour or hour you first spend with each other. You are just as much responsible for what happens on the date as the person you are with. Use your mouth. If you are talking about a topic that doesn’t interest you, change it. If you are in a store, café, or park that you don’t particularly like, then suggest someplace else – just like you want to skip over the “boring” and move on. Just know, the person may want to move on from you – someone they feel has an attention span of a two-year-old and has trouble focusing. Think about that.
Hatzlachah to you all!