I read this the other day and it really resonated with me. We’ve been pretty busy this summer, but with all the rain we’ve had, we’ve also had many days with lots of indoor downtime to fill. Unfortunately, all of us ended up filling far too much of that downtime with digital stuff: computers, video games, and for me, my phone.
There’s nothing wrong with technology, don’t get me wrong. It’s hugely helpful. We use it as a part of our schooling. I use it almost exclusively for my work, and in fact, was just today speaking with someone about the potential for some freelance work that will also be done online. Technology has tons of benefits: you can research any topic to your heart’s content, look up recipes for dinner, find out the hours of a local business, and use it to communicate virtual face to virtual face. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, you can keep up to date with what family, friends, businesses and authors, actors, and politicians are doing, thinking, saying, and planning.
But let’s face it. It can also turn into a major timesuck. The more friends you have on Facebook, and the more open they are, the longer you sit in front of the screen, scrolling to catch up with everything they’ve posted since you were last on…two hours ago. To keep yourself front and center on Twitter, you have to be willing to spend a considerable amount of time sitting there, ready to tweet and interact with the tweets and retweets of others before you’re forgotten in the deluge of other tweets that your followers see. Buying curriculum? Yep, you can go to Amazon and find that, and while you’re there, you’ll also end up looking for a new travel mug for your coffee, the new purse you need for that wedding, and sheets for your child’s bed because you can’t find the specific cartoon character he wants in a local store. Looking on YouTube for a video for science class? I dare you to do that and not end up watching a video about a talking cat five hours later with no recollection of how you got there.
Quite some time ago, I instituted my own rule for myself when it comes to my phone: I don’t turn it on on Sundays. Monday through Saturday, I’m reachable from the time I get up and turn it on until I go to bed and turn it off – unless, of course, the battery dies. That hardly ever happens, though, because in this world of constant availability, I usually keep track and plug in if it’s getting that low. But on Sundays? Nope. There’s no emergency so great, no situation so urgent, that I can’t leave that phone off. The people who could truly, honestly have such a major emergency that they need me, have my home number and would call me on that line anyway. So I leave the cell phone off and in the bedroom and enjoy the day with my family, usually relaxing at home.
Over this summer, with the rainy days, we’ve all gotten very dependent in this house on filling that time with technology. Some of it, for me, has been filled with productive stuff: writing my next book, writing and planning blog posts, researching ideas for things to teach the kids this school year or details that I want to make sure are accurate in my book. But some of it has been timesuck stuff, too: Facebook, random websites that serve no real purpose but to fill time, and even a few computer games here and there. And my kids? They’ve done pretty much nothing but play computer games all summer, and watch videos of other people playing games, or hound me to buy them specific computer games.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Computer and video games can be good, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with playing them. I’m not even saying there’s anything wrong with playing them a lot.
What I am saying, though, is that in this house, we’ve gotten a bit too disconnected from reality and a little too connected to the virtual world. We need to switch that around, and reconnect with each other, have real conversations with the people in this house, play some games we can actually touch together, and just generally spend some time hanging out with each other.
School itself, once we begin, will help with that to a degree. The hours we spend schooling are hours not spent gaming. But we do still use the computers to a point, even for school. So we can’t do a total ban on technology, because of both school and my work.
But we can still do a partial detox. We can, as the author of the post above says, unplug for small amounts of time during the day. I can (and usually do, each year) make myself unavailable by phone or otherwise, during our school day. I send a quick status out to my Facebook friends, and a text to those friends who aren’t on there (not many) that we are starting school back up on X date and that between the hours of X and Y, I will not be available. I set the phone to vibrate, and ignore any Facebook beeps and chirps that come from the computer. I do check the phone for anything urgent when we break for lunch, but otherwise, I ignore it.
I am going to take it a step further this year, though. In years past, when the kids have been working on something that didn’t require my immediate help or attention, but was too short a period for me to get any real work done, I would hop on Facebook or Twitter and kill time. Not this year. I’m not sure how I’ll fill that time yet. Maybe just reading. I do love to read. Whatever it is, it won’t be online. Hopefully, it will also be something that is somehow useful or productive in some way.
The kids’ detox is going to include no games before school. After school…I’m still working on this. I want to ensure they still get to do what they enjoy, but I also want to make sure that we reconnect and that we don’t slip back into old habits. Fortunately, I still have a few works to work out the details.
What do you think of a digital detox? Have you ever done one? Do you need to do one? Do you wish you could but can’t for some reason?