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?
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.