End of the e-Family

February 7th, 2012 by Kat Kingsley-Hughes

In so many ways this is the blog post I never wanted to write. And I can honestly say I never thought I would write it.

In the middle of January Adrian told me he was leaving, suddenly, scarily, angrily. My world shattered. We have been married for 18 years and most of that was spent inside a bubble of technology.

Raised in an Internet Bubble

We home-schooled our kids who were born into our strange Internet world where they learned to use computers before they could walk. Ours was a private, intense little geek existence where the outside world didn’t exist – except for the one that came in via the phone wires.

We wrote technology books, we taught online classes at ZDU and Element K (and others) and we wrote for magazines and online outlets like CNET and ZDNet, where we covered Apple press conferences like a well-oiled press room, despite being two adults and two children. Our kids didn’t grow up so much hanging finger paintings on the fridge as taking screenshots of their Age of Empires villages and uploading them to their spaces, along with their latest Photoshop creations, Poser animations and home-made videos.

Our lives were downloaded, uploaded, virtualised and streamed to one other.

Adrian and I raised our kids as co-parents. No one was the main caretaker, which is an awesome thing for a man to do – provided he can stay the distance. We were building a new kind of family, all very nineties, telecommuting, distance learning, etc. When NASA ran experiments putting people into biospheres to see if they could survive the isolation of living in space on a Mars mission, we laughed at them. They had nothing on us! A lot of people were inspired by us and thought we were the coolest family in the world. Some people thought we were mad, but then we didn’t give a FF what they thought. This was us, living the geek dream.  The kids were used to being there with us  24/7.  We lived and worked and played computer games and built websites and animated stuff and surfed the web and built computers and took tech apart and hacked the firmware and dropped stuff off cliffs and blew shit up.

How could all that suddenly … end?

A lot of my time is spent in shock and disbelief now. Mostly there are questions and no answers. How did this happen? How am I supposed to look after two shattered teens who only know that strange insular Internet world? Did this really happen? The only answer is that yes  it happened. Our little office is getting emptier by the day. This was where we sat writing, programming, ripping apart technology and teaching people from around the world how to use it. Just the flotsam of old Buzz Lightyear figures and Simpsons toys that adorned the tops of monitors for decades, old floppy disks, and a hole in the carpet from where the office chairs rolled over the same spots day in, day out.  All our past is being slowly swept away.  It is tragic. Yet it seems to be a tragedy that only I am witness to. Adrian, in whatever world he has spun off to, doesn’t seem to notice or feel sentiment for the end of our sad little Borg family social experiment. But I see it and all I am left with is disbelief.

Pro-blogging and the family

The pressures of tech journalism seem to make people blind to much else. And it gradually takes over your life so that things you once held dear, like love, your kids and your family, are nowhere near as important as blogging and the next big story. Basically it eats you alive. Eventually all that is left are a single-track brain and fingers to do the typing. Of all the areas of technology we ventured into, professional blogging did the most damage to us.  If you’re not careful it becomes the thing you love more than anything else. But it can’t keep you warm, can’t give you a hug, can never bring you the joy a family can. What have you got left, except page views, feedback and Google juice?

Back in the nineties, when we hacked our way into the deepest part of the tech jungle in those heady early days of the web, we saw endless possibilities, new age thinking and new ways of living. The Matrix, Star Trek TNG on first run, Internet Explorer 4 became THE biggest thing, all cascading style sheets and JavaScript and fun, fun, fun.  But time moves on and social media meant you were never truly alone anymore, and blogging meant getting the story became THE big thing. Technology almost came second in that regard. Never being away from work for a moment via mobile devices meant never really having any down time. Twitter and Facebook can make you think you have all the friends in the world yet you are still sitting there alone.  Our life was run on the iPad, organised by Google calendar, uploaded to the cloud so you never left anything behind, Facebook, iTunes, GPS, Twitter, Google maps, everything intermingled around us all like a sticky, sticky web.

Vanguard of the iGeneration

Technology, which played such a huge part in building our family and our careers, was of course integral in its demise. Find my Friends meant endless confusion over where someone was and why they were there. Facetime meant you could be apart but still be together, never away from work, never away from each other. But is a relationship really thriving via Skype and FaceTime? Just because you can see one another and talk to one another, isn’t the same as sitting side-by-side, is it? Even iOS autocorrect fail played a part that fateful Saturday (with iPhone autocorrecting the word ‘unreachable’ to ‘untraceable’ in an iMessage, delivering a subtly different meaning that sparked the end of a family).

Technology screwed us over just as happily as it had created us.

Our little family were the vanguard of the iGeneration who are growing up on the web. In many ways we were a prototype for the e-family, born in the information age, and it was consumed by and driven by the pursuit of technology and whatever you could make technology do.

But now that tech is falling silent. All the ways our lives were interconnected by technology are unravelling, unfriending, unsharing, disentangling, snaking apart.

And whatever happens, whether we as a couple get back together eventually or stay apart, it’s the end of an era. Two tech geeks who lived and worked in our own private tech bubble are now just two people, starting over.  That wonderful nineties dream of living in a different way, a better way, is over. And so it should be, I hear a lot of techies say, because it’s 2012 now and time and tech move on. But the same can’t be said of families, surely? They are fragile, living things that need protecting from the vagaries of technology. Wait! Did I just say that? Man, have I changed my tune!  But yes, while I am not blaming tech for what happened to us, ultimately I am left with the conclusion that technology is no basis for family life.

If any elements of your family life remind you of our lives, consider yourself warned.  Do something about it before it’s too late.

Go outside your door, there is a world out there. Interact with it. Leave your tech behind. Find something else to talk about.  Let getting the big story go for today. There is more to life than writing and more to life than technology.

And hug your kids, your spouse, your friends.  Actually hug them! Coz ((((this)))) is not the same.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 at 12:10 pm and is filed under Flotsam, Web. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

9 Responses to “End of the e-Family”

  1. Flatroofer. Says:

    Every thing in moderation.

  2. Sonofapshrink Says:

    This’ll seem callous and harsh, but in a way, I can honestly say: Be thankful that this sudden end of what you thought of as your whole life was exactly that: Sudden. Boom, done and gone.

    It’s a shock, it hurts. It’s not nice to be left just like that. It doesn’t compare to years and years of soul-destroying conflict, though. My case: Parents took seven years to admit it was over, right through my puberty. A score years on I’m still paying. And it could still be worse, but I won’t speak of that. Suffice to say, if it has to be over, best get it over with.

    Still and all, I wish you and yours strength with doing what Shatner advised: Getting a life. Take the good memories with you, leave the rest behind. Now is the time to take a break, to move house, to begin something anew. I’ve yet to see a winter that didn’t come with a spring attached.

  3. Vexentrix Says:

    Good advice! Thank you!!

  4. Peter Says:

    All things including technology will pass away, but the love and fellowship of the one true living God the father, and His resurrected son Jesus Christ, remains forever. Two thousand years ago Jesus declared “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except by me.” The family of God is available to every one who will believe on Jesus Christ. Call on Him today, in the day of your need. He will never refuse any one who seeks true fellowship with him. Please believe me when I tell you, that “You” can know in full measure the true love and experience a vibrant living fellowship with Jesus Christ. Jesus also said “come to Me and I will give you rest.” In the midst of all your deep pain and loss, Jesus Christ, now stands at the door of your heart, with His loving arms wide open to receive you. I Know because in 1993 my life and family was also ripped apart. In that year I thank God, I turned to Jesus Christ and I have never looked back. Rebuild your life on the only real solid foundation of a loving fellowship with the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and He alone also stated and promised that” He will never leave you or forsake you. To underscore this fact, God the Father through the Power of the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the grave, three days after He was crucified. Jesus Christ the Son of God loves “you” – with an “everlasting love.” In this world sadly, we eventually learn that we can not fix our selves, or others, at the fundamental level of our human existance. We live in a broken world. The only “Good News” is that Jesus Christ came to His creation – this world, to redeem that which was broken and lost. The Apostle John who knew and experienced the love of God wrote two thousand years ago, “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He (even gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to Destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. Source:The Gospel of John, chapter 3 verse 16.The Amplified Bible. Our creator God has designed the Human Spirit to live forever, when our mortal bodies perish our spirit lives on. The question then is where do you, wish to spend eternity, with God or separated forever from God. Jesus also stated two thousand years ago, The thief(Satan) comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they(humanity) may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows. Source:The Gospel of John, chapter 10 verse 10. Even in the deepest pit of despair, Jesus Christ reaches out His loving arms to us, and He alone is able to rescue us from our messed up lives. I don’t know your name but He does know you and He does love you. He payed the price at the cross of Calvary for our salvation. Friend, choose life not death. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ, and He will answer you. I earnestly pray that you will make Him your eternal friend and saviour. Love in Jesus Christ, to you. Peter from ENGLAND on the 23rd of February 2012.

  5. Bridlington Says:

    Technology is a servant to life not a replacement. Social media actually is rubbish and one dimentional. The whole point of reading real books is that you can put them down, think, and consider the point. Life s not what the first dimentional. You have learnt it is not real life. Best of luck for the future.

  6. troy Says:

    really sorry to hear about that

  7. Vexentrix Says:

    Thanks. We’re getting there…

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