A Digital Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to see relatives, eat good food, play board/card games and regret everything you ate the next day as you awaken out of your food coma— at least, that’s how we used to celebrate the holiday. Now, Thanksgiving has evolved from us surrounding the dinner table to surrounding our phones; my cousins were sporting their air pods, glued to their phones, snapchatting friends, and constantly scrolling through social media.

I hadn’t seen my cousins in months and was finally looking forward to catching up on each other’s lives and playing fun games. I barely got to do anything with them this Thanksgiving because of how preoccupied everyone was with their personal devices. I’m not going to see them again for a considerable amount of time; it feels like we wasted the time we had together.

Even when I did try to engage them in a card or board game, my relatives would pass the time that it wasn’t their turn by sitting on their phones, doing the same thing they had been doing for the past few days.

Nonetheless, I am no exception; I was on my phone for a substantial amount of time, but I knew when to put it down and engage in conversation, dinner, or even watch TV with everyone. I’ve learned that electronics are addictive, and it seems as though they have a stronghold over my family I have never previously witnessed before. I am starting to see my parents’ point when they say, “this generation would be so lost without their phones.”

As the evening went on, I became increasingly discouraged. It felt as though my efforts to make conversation fell on deaf ears. I eventually gave up trying unless one of them asked if I wanted to watch a movie or play a game.

While I can’t speak for other people’s families this Thanksgiving, if your relatives were also present but not present, I empathize with you. I was excited to see my family and spend some quality time with them, and yet, that’s what I got to do the least.

I am afraid of this becoming the new normal, for my family and families all over. Whenever I have my family over for Thanksgiving or go over to a relative’s house, I don’t want the people I love to turn into zombies, passing the time waiting to eat food or leave to go home on their phones.

I don’t want to baby my cousins by taking away their phones to force quality time with one another, but I am at a loss for what to do or how to handle this in the future. Perhaps I could ask them not to be on their devices as much, but I tried that and it didn’t go over well.

Nonetheless, during this Thanksgiving I would periodically hide my cousins’ phones whenever they put them down. Eventually, they found out I had taken the phone, but it was surprising to see how they reacted when their phone wasn’t at their fingertips. Honestly, I would probably act the same, but it looked like they lost part of themselves when they couldn’t find their phones after ten minutes.

I either need to appeal to them better next time or accept that this is our new reality. When everyone started to pack up and say their goodbyes, I didn’t know how to feel. Obviously, I am going to miss them, but I didn’t feel as sad as I normally would. I began to think about the next time I see them. Will it be as bad as last time, or will my family and I dial back on the electronics?

The highlight of my Thanksgiving was when a good chunk of my relatives and I took my dogs out for a long walk through a farm around my house. No one was on their phones. Everyone was conversing, and the weather was beautiful. It was just a great moment and gave me hope that technology hasn’t taken hold of my family as badly as I thought it had.