Time to Unplug That Technology?
March 1-2 was the National Day of Unplugging Day.
A day when individuals separated themselves from their smartphones, tablets, and personal computers for 24 hours, to connect with people on a more personal basis.
The omnipresence of the Internet and social media is something many of us take for granted today, even though it would have been a science-fiction fantasy fifteen years ago.
But are smartphones impacting how we with other people — even our own families — in negative ways?
Tool or Toil?
You don’t need a Harvard study to tell you that for many, the answer is yes.
A single look at your Facebook feed will tell you just how much social media and smartphones have transformed our culture. What used to be “downtime” is now filled with text, chat, status updates, or games.
A smartphone can easily become less like a useful tool and more like a leash when it clamors for attention every few moments.
Got an Addiction?
The addictive properties of mobile devices are no joke — smartphones and other mobile Internet devices can act like Skinner boxes, delivering small psychological rewards in exchange for little bits of effort.
Many “casual” games require little skill or strategy, but instead thrive on occasional but regular attention.
A desire to get Facebook “likes” or other online validations has encouraged people to share even the most trifling minutiae in return for the easy attention of friends, family, or strangers.
But these small online interactions take time, and the small amounts add up.
It’s not unusual to attend social or family gatherings where everyone is on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, ignoring the people in the room while they communicate with strangers — or, in many cases, communicate with each other over the Internet while in the same room!
Has Addiction Infected The Family?
If your family dinner table has started to look like a tech exhibit, it may be time to reclaim your family time and start interacting with your spouse and children again.
While locking the smartphones in a drawer for a week (or even a day) is not likely to be popular, limiting their use can have a big positive impact on your family’s interactions.
Set some ground rules forbidding the use of smartphones at the dinner table, and don’t eat in front of the television or any other screens. Institute a “one-screen” policy in your home — if the TV is on, then no playing with the laptop or tablet at the same time.
Better yet, plan some activities and get out of the house altogether.
Of course, having mobile devices means that you can’t leave the Internet behind just by leaving home — but you can switch off your phones, or leave behind all but one or two, in case of emergencies. (If the thought fills you with horror, that might be a good indicator that you’re more addicted to your device than you might think.)
For most families, giving up their mobile devices is neither desirable nor possible.
As a culture, we’ve become accustomed to being in touch whenever and wherever we want — whether our family members are in the next room, or thousands of miles away. But online interaction is no substitute for a good, face-to-face conversation. Plan some activities where you do nothing but talk to your spouse, your kids, your siblings, or all of the above — you might be surprised at how much you enjoy being distraction-free for a while.
Smartphones and the Internet aren’t inherently evil. Both enrich our lives and have their legitimate uses.
But as with all things, the key is moderation and balance.
Own your devices, and use the Internet — but don’t be owned by them.
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