November 24, 2010 5:09:00 PM
Say "Thanksgiving" and the traditional Norman Rockwell painting comes to mind, with the family gathered in anticipation around a bountiful table as Dad prepares to carve the turkey. Others may think of the first Thanksgiving, with English settlers and American Indians coming together to break bread.
Few think of little Johnny texting under the table, or Dad checking his work e-mail. This is increasingly the American reality, as technology and forces outside the family keep pulling our attention away from family gatherings.
A survey conducted this month by Harris Interactive found that most employed Americans -- 59 percent -- check their work e-mails during traditional holidays, including Thanksgiving. More than one in four, 28 percent, check their e-mails several times during the holidays.
And we do it more in the South -- 69 percent of us will check our work e-mail at least once today, according to the survey. What happened to our laid-back, family-focused, Southern reputation?
If you can believe it, 19 percent of people in the survey said they felt "thankful" or "relieved" for having work distractions on the holiday, double the number who felt pity for those who send work-related e-mails on their holiday day off.
Mom and Dad aren''t the only distracted ones. Another recent poll showed that 64 percent of teens said they have texted at the dinner table -- sacred ground for family conversation.
We suppose we should be thankful for being employed, and having access to computers and cell phones. Many of us will be working, or traveling, today.
But we also think Thanksgiving and Christmas should be days to connect with family, not the Internet. (It probably wouldn''t hurt to turn the TV off, too.)
Others share this notion. One website, offlining.com, has been dedicated to disconnecting from technology during the holidays, with the founders asking people to sign a pledge not to text or surf the web. "Give thanks, not thx," the site''s founders urge. One lasting image on the site is that of an iPhone being carved up like a turkey.
Can''t we stand to do that for at least one day?
With increasingly busy lives, families tend to gather around the table less and less. Thanksgiving is one of those days that has remained sacred for many families. If you can, we urge you to spend the day focused on family, not outside distractions.
1. Ask Rufus: Coming home at Christmas LOCAL COLUMNS
2. Birney Imes: A Christmastime ramble LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Dana Milbank: Marco Rubio's fury NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Michael Gerson: A global conspiracy of health NATIONAL COLUMNS