The Effects of Technology on Family Time in Us and Them by David Sedaris

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Everyone has their own ways of doing things. We are all curious on how people do things differently than us on a daily basis. In “Us and Them”, David Sedaris, author and playwriter, tells a story of a boy’s perspective of a growing interest towards a family that is very different from his own, the author emphasizes the importance of family life and how technology disrupts that. Although, Sedaris gives out a prime example of the modern world when it comes to technology, he doesn’t realize how foolish he looks being selfish towards the Tomkeys over Halloween candy.

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I think this essay is very broad and has more meaning to it than people realize. From the audience’s standpoint he didn’t make watching television healthy or unhealthy, instead through his narration he was able to send the audience the power that something as little as television could have upon a person. He went from where television was a huge evening ritual with his family to the point where he couldn’t comprehend the idea of others not living that way. After his mother found out how the Tomkeys didn’t believe in television she relayed the message over to her husband. He responded “Well, good for him. I don’t know that I believe in it either.” And she responded, “That’s exactly how I feel.” (884). But later that night the narrator’s parents watched the news, and whatever else came on after the news. Which showed how the Sedaris’ are going to continue to watch television if they believe in it or not because they’re so used to their daily routine. It was interesting how the idea of the Tomkeys not watching television was enough for Sedaris to grieve for. The main problem was that television became a blindfold to the real world and that was all that the narrator focused on. When a society becomes so self-centered and engulfed in technology, we lose ability to communicate and form relationships with others, which leads to an unhealthy society. Because the Tomkeys had no television, Sedaris wrote that “The Tomkeys were forced to talk during dinner, they had no idea how puny their lives were.” (884). Sedaris found this out because he would creep into the Tomkey’s bushes and spy on them while they would eat dinner.

Sedaris completely disregards the Tomkeys as actual people until they show up to his house asking for candy a night after Halloween. His mother realized how they were out of candy from Halloween night, so she asked Sedaris and his sister to run upstairs to get their candy. When he went the night before to trick-or-treat at the Tomkeys, they put out a sign saying, “Don’t be greedy” (886). Meaning only take a piece or two to leave enough for others. In a perfect ironic twist, the story escalated with the narrator shoving his favorite candies in his mouth instead of giving a couple of pieces to the Tomkey children. Once the mother came in his room and saw what he was doing and said “You should look at yourself. I mean, really look at yourself” (888) I think she noticed how foolish he had been acting, although it doesn’t seem that he was bothered about his behavior yet. Soon at the end of his story it seemed like Sedaris realized how self-centered he was acting when he was sitting on the ground watching television thinking to himself how arousing he sounded when his mother told him he should take a good look at himself. As Sedaris was watching television, he thought to himself “He’s a human being, but also he’s a pig, surrounded by trash gorging himself so that others may be denied.” (889). In that moment he also realized that he could continue to watch television and forget the world around him. The narrator felt no remorse towards his actions and resorted to using television as an escape from any guilt for his poor choices.

David Sedaris wrote this powerful and thoughtful piece to get his readers to try to think about the bigger picture. It caused the reader not to only analyze the narrative but also analyze themselves. Knowing how much of a distraction technology can be to us on a daily basis, and how much our society relies on it, this story showed the importance of communication in families and how children are able to form healthy relationships themselves without having to rely on technology in the modern world. 

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