Parallel Play

Lately, when my wife and I are both on our iPads, she watching Law & Order reruns and me reading blogs, I’ve been thinking about the concept of parallel play. Parallel play is something kids do during a certain stage of development.

Parallel play is a form of play in which children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another’s behavior; it typically begins around 24–30 months.

What we are doing reminds me of that style of play. We are next to each other, but not interacting, just engrossed in our own entertainment. Sometimes, I’ll even be cooking, listening to music on the HomePod, and my wife will be in the kitchen, with her AirPods in, watching Law & Order on her iPad. We’re not dancing to the same beat. We might as well be in two different worlds.

In the past, even if a couple was simply watching TV in the same room, they were at least able to talk with each other about the content they were consuming. There was a shared experience. Now, however, there are ways to achieve isolation together.

Obviously, aside from the stage of child development, this is a new way of being, made possible by ubiquitous devices. It’s another mutation in behavior that technological enhancements have introduced. I’m not sure how many other couples find themselves existing like this. Since the effects probably range from unknown to detrimental, it may be another case for the Luddite view of new tech. That is, the patience and willingness to proceed with caution and view advancements with a trained skepticism.

I suppose I’ve got to take a longitudinal view of things and see how this affects our communication over time. My outlook about it is not optimistic, though. I don’t even want to think about how much worse this kind of dynamic gets when people rush to strap VR headsets on their faces and live in their own little fantasies.

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