Monday, January 28, 2013

Reflections on an unplugged weekend

I think it's fair to say that I've been rather disgusted by the overuse of social media and the personal devices that make it so easy to have everything we "need" right at our fingertips. From play dates where I had to compete for attention with someone's smart phone, to holiday gatherings where everyone was so plugged into their own little world, to this:

Really? And maybe this photo was doctored up, but the fact is that I don't think it would surprise anyone to see that the entire first family was on their phones during the inauguration. 

And then I came across this blog and these two posts in particular:

And while I'm not personally convicted by these posts, they do make me really sad. Because I see it, too. And it's not just the parents who are plugged in. It's the kids sitting at the restaurant (or the checkout lane at Target or the doctor's office waiting room), playing on their parents' (or even worse, their own) iPad or smart phone. 

Now, don't get me wrong. Plenty of the apps on our iPad and Dan's iPhone are games for the kids (and some are even educational--bonus). Not to mention the access to Netflix. But we definitely limit the amount of screen time that the kids get everyday. And we certainly aren't taking these devices out of the house in a regular basis. But both kids are quick to ask, "Can I play the iPad?" if they are even approaching "bored" territory in their day. And the answer is usually "No," or "Okay, but just for 5 minutes."

But then I got thinking. Are our (general American family "our") kids programmed to be entertained by something or someone every moment of the day? Yes, they are. I notice it when Jack has more than a couple of days off of school. He's not used to the lack of constant classroom stimulation. And just the fact that my kids alone are so quick to ask for something to play with/on before they even begin to try to entertain themselves with something else was eye-opening.

So, I proposed a weekend of technology detox.

And the best part is that my family didn't freak out at the idea. They actually welcomed it. And I secretly thought that they were in for a rude awakening. :) After chatting with my husband, we decided on this past weekend--Friday night through Sunday night. And while I didn't want it to feel like a structured "thing," these were our basic ground rules:

Both laptops and the iPad were turned off and put away in our bedroom. 

Since we don't have a landline, our cell phones were placed on the counter in case we needed to be reached and were taken with us if we left the house--but only to be used for answering the phone.

Our only television time would be two designated movie times, with all of us watching the same thing together. 

Thank you, redbox.

And that's it. We started when Dan came home from work on Friday. And we survived! In fact, it didn't feel THAT different from a normal weekend. Here are some thoughts/highlights.

Both kids (okay, mostly Leah) would ask to watch something or to play with the iPad, but as soon as I said, "No, we're not doing that this weekend," they said, "Okay," and moved on.

A lot of the things we did instead of relying on devices are things we do all the time anyway: we ate every meal together, we read, we cleaned, we played with Legos, we did homework, we colored, we did laundry, etc. Getting rid of the devices didn't open up this whole world of, "Oh my word, look at all the stuff I have time to do now that I'm not tied to my smart phone!" And for that I am grateful. It let me know that maybe our "plugged in-ness" is at a reasonable, moderate level.

It was so quiet. Sometimes I'll turn the TV on to watch the news and realize a couple of hours later that I never turned it off, and we just get used to that noise in the background. But the quiet is so amazing. Even constant music via iTunes or Pandora can make me crazy after a while. I just need to hear nothing. Except for the owl that lives in a tall tree somewhere in our backyard. So awesome. :)

Jackson did two things that made me smile. After already getting his allotted 30 minutes of reading done on Sunday, he grabbed another book and said, "Could you set the timer for 15 minutes? I'm going to keep reading." :) Then out of nowhere in the car, he said, "I think we should unplug every weekend." I said, "I like the way you think!"

Logging back on last night was most disappointing! As I scrolled through my newsfeed, I thought, "Seriously? This is what I missed?" You all could have been much more interesting! ;)

So, there you have it. Am I leaving facebook or swearing off the use of devices? No. Although I don't know that I'll ever have the desire to move on from my basic non-smart phone. The break was nice, and I'm sure  we'll do it again once in a while. But I am also coming away from the weekend knowing that we have our priorities pretty well lined-up. There's obviously always room for improvement, and some days and weeks are harder than others in this area.

I'd love to challenge you to try an unplugged weekend. And I'd love to hear how it goes!


Peggy Miller said...

This is so great Erin! I'm proud of you all. Well done!!

Ariella said...

I unplugged this weekend too... by sheer coincidence. I got more done too (felt a bit overwhelmed of what is left to do), and only felt the urge to sign on-line twice, which quickly passed. The Internet and social networking are beautiful tools... but not a way of life. So happy you're introducing this to your children. In a way, we're starting a new revolution.... From here on out, I intend to take Saturdays off from being "plugged in"... ~Ariella

Laurie and company said...

I so needed to read this post...that picture of the first!
thanks for the encouragement!