Technologically-Mediated Human Relationships

A couple of nights ago, I was watching Youtube videos with my 3yr old when she noticed a thumbnail of a video featuring my dad. She instantly yelled, “Pappou, Pappou, I want to see Pappou.” We began to watch the video and within seconds, she began to call directly to her grandfather.¬†It began slowly with “Pappou. Pappou.” But quickly, she became noticeably agitated that dad seemed to be speaking over her and not responding to her voice. She became frantic and began to yell, “Pappou! Pappou! Listen to me Pappou!” Then, she began to cry. For the next 45 minutes, she cried hysterically for her grandfather.

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At some point during this, I realized that she had never before simply “watched” a video of her grandfather. Before this, every time that she had seen my dad on screen, it has been through a two-way, interactive medium such as FaceTime or Skype. For kids growing up today, the boundaries between physical and virtual may not be as well-defined.

As I consoled her through this very long moment, the professor in me contemplated how incredibly different it will be for my children to grow up in today’s technology-saturated world, and more in particular, I wondered what this mediated reality will mean for their current and ¬†future human relationships. As parents, educators, administrators, and theorists, we really need to pay attention.

My Dad

My dad died suddenly on March 26, 2013. I have about a dozen, half-written blog posts on my computer that I just can’t bring myself to publish. Some of these posts describe the life of my dad, and others are my conversations with him after his death. None of these posts feel right. None of these posts are good enough to describe his life, his accomplishments, his lasting influence on me, or how horribly I miss him. He was my father and my very best friend. And his loss is so incredibly painful.

Saying Goodbye

But I have to move on. By writing a few incomplete thoughts here I am hoping that I can move forward in some little way. I know that dad would want that.

The night before he died, dad talked with my entire family. He spoke to my three kids telling them each how much he loved and missed them. Then, he and I had our last conversation. Dad told me how much he loved me, and how I have made him proud. He was unusually sad, and he said it over and over again. I feel now that he, in some way, knew his time had come.

Since he passed away, I’ve wondered what I could have said differently to him during our last call. I told him that I loved him, that I missed him very much, and that I would see him very soon. I am so happy that these were my last words to him, although I’ve been struggling with the last part of that sentence for the past 96 days. Soon wasn’t soon enough.

But over the past few weeks, I have seen my dad in ways that I didn’t see before. I see my dad in my oldest girl’s mannerisms, in my boy’s physical appearance, and in my youngest girl’s expressions. I feel my dad within me in the way that I hold my hands against my face sometimes, in the way that I hug my children, and in the way that I love and care for my mother. He is ever present. He is all around me.

So I have to get better at not missing the things that I can’t have – his laugh, his advice, his concern, his voice – and I need to focus on the things about my dad that I still carry with me. There is so much to be grateful for and I need to appreciate and honour all that I have gained through my extraordinary relationship with my beloved father.

I miss you dad. I love you more than anything, and I am thankful for everything that you have given me. You’ve made me the man that I am today. And I will not disappoint you.

Me and My Dad