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I recently got an iPad, a gadget that has an amazing ability to distract from all that is worthwhile and important; in other words, a colossal time-waster. One of the major draws to this electronic wonder is the vast number of applications you can enjoy, everything from sports to entertainment to politics, right there at your fingertips. On my iPad, I have a number of different games I like to play, such as Family Feud, The Price is Right, CSI, Wheel of Fortune, hockey, solitaire, mancala, Smurf’s Village and Virtual Families. I tend to play Smurf’s Village the most, a game that’s akin to Farmville on Facebook; the game that most fascinates me; however, is Virtual Families. The object of this game is simple, adopt a little person, marry them off, make them reproduce, and then manage their lives. I don’t really like the game at all; in fact, I find it rather disturbing. Over a period of about two to four weeks, the couple has a child, the child grows up and goes off to college, the parents reach age 60 and die. During their brief lives, the family does nothing but eat, sleep, groom, work on their career, spend a little time playing video games and browsing the Internet, and clean house.

What is it about this game that bothers me so much? Unfortunately, I think it far too closely mirrors daily life. Apart from the excitement that accompanies brief respites, via vacation or weekends away, I think I may actually be a virtual adoptee living in a virtual family. Each day looks surprisingly similar to those gone before; get kids off to school, exercise, shower, work on classes, lunch meetings, review chapter books for leadership text, create and manage various projects, get kids from school, continue to work on whatever is unfinished, which is usually everything, eat dinner, help kids with homework, watch a little television, get ready for bed, sleep and awaken to find the same tasks awaiting my attention.

After considering the reality of iPad living, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two ways to go. There is the iPad life that most of us experience – incidental, passive and docile.  We get up hoping the day goes well, ambling along in a laid back manner doing the same things we always do, surprised when something exciting crosses our path. It’s an easy way of life – one that doesn’t cause too much hassle as long as everything runs smoothly. All in all, it’s an okay way to go, but certainly nothing to write home about. To the contrary, the other iPad alternative is to live our days in an intentional, proactive and determined way. Rather than allowing life to happen to us, we make purposeful plans to make life happen within us. In place of the aimless ambling are proactive, determined steps toward specific goals designed to make life meaningful and worthwhile. As a friend of mine once told me, set your goal and then do at least one thing a day toward reaching that goal, even if it’s the only thing you do the entire day. While her advice may sound a bit extreme, it offers at least one way to make sure the choices we make throughout our lives aren’t ones thrust upon us by circumstance, but rather those we have intentionally selected in an effort to lead a proactive and determined life. If you’re going to take part in iPad living, at least make it the one that allows you to fully live rather than fully observe. I think I’ll keep looking in on my virtual family from time to time as a reminder that it’s not what happens on the screen that counts – off-screen living gets my vote.