La vida™

We have never restricted the access to iPhones, iPads, and the likes to our son. He was born in 2009, when touch screens were everywhere already, and we felt that was just part of his world. He'd better get used to them. As a result our son showed some weird behaviours, like getting to learn how a paper book works, surprised by the fact that you don't touch the drawings, that it doesn't react in any way, and that turning pages requires a more elaborated move than a swipe on the page. You also see how they grasp the interaction language with apps so naturally that they learn their way through the screens with surprising intuition. We've all seen that.

We feared, like everybody else, that these devices would suck his brain and turn him into some anti-social, electronics junkie. But, as opposed to most people I know, we didn't jump into protective mode when we saw symptoms of addiction, limiting his use of gadgets. We waited and gave him time to adjust. And he did adjust, indeed. The pattern was always: get super excited about a new game, dive into it with obsession, over time it will all wear off, and finally off to another thing. The point is that another thing does not mean another game, but a long list of interests: drawing, trading cards, toy cars, playing football, swimming in the pool, dragon ball, etc. Besides, it has always (almost) been easy for us to ask him to leave whatever he was doing in the iPad to have lunch with us (but you'd better let him finish his match, though, which seems fair to me).

(Ok, we're going to leave aside the fact that with 18 months he was almost diagnosed with autism, ahem, something that I'm positive was not associated with what I'm talking here, and a condition that reverted without altering out attitude toward electronics).

One particularly interesting episode happened when he was 5 years old and we introduced him to the PlayStation. One night we did have a fight to pull him from the game and into the bed. When in the bed, he suddenly said: "dad, I don't know what is happening to me. Videogames get into my head, and I cannot let them go. What can I do?" Self-awareness level pro, I would say. That was the cry for help of an early drug addict. I was shocked. "I know, son. It happens because they're fun and exciting, but you have to know that you will be able to play later. You let us tell you when to quit, make an effort not to get angry, and it will get better, you will see. But you need to let us help you." Never happened again.

Having dealt with addiction fears, I enjoy how he engages so naturally with electronics. One day I told him: "Son, one day Sergio Ramos scored in the last minute and gave Real Madrid a Champions League". He said: "Really? But you mean in la vida?" (I'm using the Spanish expression here cause I found it so fun, that would be something like real life). La vida? I thought, what the hell is that? I realized then that there are 2 Ramos in his world, the one he handles in PS's FIFA 2015, and the one that actually plays in real life. He coined la vida™ to distinguish those. I mean, he feals the need to give a name to the actual world because la vida™ is only a part of his life, not specially more important than the virtual one he also spends his time in. Really, when a generation has built a virtual world by the age of 5 (hi Minecraft), when they've experienced what is to help someone from an unknown part of the planet overcome obstacles (hello Journey), your perspective must be different. You have a virtual life, then you have la vida™, and you switch between both, hopefully gracefully and naturally.

So la vida™ has become a thing now in our family, and I will specify whether what I'm talking about refers to la vida™ or to something else. I've even gone that far as to hopelessly look for some lavida domains available and I was lucky enough to find open for me. It's mine now. (If you're surprised by the .co, it is now generally accepted that it's the best thing after the already impossible .com). I'll leave there, waiting for my son to be old enough to build with me some ironic realm in the virtual world that refers to what he coined as a child as a reflection of the real world most of us are still stuck in.

Enjoy this weekend in whatever world you feel is more fun to you, and see you around next week.