At this celebratory time of year, can we unplug our devices for a moment?

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Wrangler News editor Joyce Coronel
Wrangler News editor Joyce Coronel

It’s that time of year when our hearts turn toward home and we long to be with loved ones, reliving happy memories of days gone by and creating new traditions and moments of joy.

In my own family, we’re counting down the days until our son, a Marine, returns from Quantico, Virginia, before shipping out to Japan for the next three years.

Our Yuletide gathering will be bittersweet as we cherish a few short days together before he departs.

Johnny, who as a college student wrote for Wrangler News, has been in Virginia for the last six months for final training. During that time we’ve been able to call, email, text and instant message him, but even with Facetime, it’s not quite the same as actually being together, sharing a meal or just catching up. And in this era of high-tech everything, that’s something to ponder.

I’ll be the first to admit my semi-addiction to my smartphone, Kindle, iPad and other electronic gizmos. I read almost everything digitally and do 90 percent of my Christmas shopping online.

Yet I’m old enough to remember when reporters had to submit hard copies of articles and actual film to be processed, when we had to stop and ask for directions and neighbors really knew each other.

Those days are pretty much gone. We’ve become a society that lives a largely digital existence.

Of course, there’s an upside. Tasks that used to take hours are now performed with a click. Need food? You can order your groceries or a take- out meal. Letter to your homeowners association? You can send an email and they’ll have it within seconds. Want to donate to charity? There’s a website for countless worthy organizations.

For the most part, we do things remotely. We don’t join clubs. We don’t gather for meetings. We keep to ourselves, staring at our screens.

The question is, what are the long- term effects on society of less and less personal interaction?

I thought of this the other day while trying on clothes at a local department store (I like to order some items from Amazon but sometimes it’s nice to just wander the aisles and actually feel the fabric of clothes you might want to buy, isn’t it?)

Back in the dressing room with various jeans, skirts and blouses slung over my arms, I saw a grandmother watching over a 2-or-so-year-old boy strapped into a shopping cart. Mommy was trying on dresses in her stall and grandma had handed over her cell
phone to the teething toddler who sat transfixed by a sing-a-long video—at least momentarily.

At one point, he began to fuss and the mother was patiently firing off instructions on which website grandma should plug into next. I thought to myself: This is different from when I raised my kids.

I can still see my mother endeavoring to distract a fussy toddler of my own, pushing
a stroller as Michael (now 30 and awaiting the birth of his firstborn) cried and carried on. Today’s hand-‘em-a-device strategy is painless and I’m sure I would have adopted.

And it sure looks a lot less stressful!

And yet, what happens when we substitute more and more “face time” with the digital? Yes, it’s convenient. I’m all for it. But how do we get people to leave the comfort of their devices and look in each other’s eyes? How do we get them to attend meetings, talk to each other and interact? This is a challenge for families, service organizations, churches and businesses.

At this time when millions celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it’s a point worth considering. Notice that the one many of us claim as our savior showed up in person. He spent his 33 years on earth stepping into people’s lives and having personal, one-on-one, face-to-face encounters with people just like you and me.

He didn’t ignore, but rather reached out to outcasts and pariahs, people others despised. If you read the accounts of his works, you’ll see that he made a point of looking at and touching people. He loved them and they knew it.

As we move toward Christmas, we here at Wrangler are thankful for the many people who take the time to visit or call us, who get to know us and our vision of building community here in Tempe and West Chandler.

We look back over the last year and give thanks for the countless interactions and interviews with those who make this a wonderful place to live and work. From our families to yours, we hope you’ll have a very merry Christmas and happy New Year.

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