I must’ve seen a good ten different articles this week about the fact it’s a problem that Americans are spending too much time behind screens.
- How it’s terrible that we live virtually through social media and video games.
- How it’s detrimental to our socialization when we hide behind our phones.
- How it’s sad that we prefer facing a computer over facing the people under our own roof.
- How the true experience is lost when we place a screen between ourselves and the thing so worth capturing.
So what do we do about it?
I read these articles with deep interest, because I agree in full. I believe we’re detaching. I believe we’re missing out, and that the quality of life is going down, not up, as a result of our tech-rich world. I also know I spend (way) more time than I’d like to admit in front of my laptop. And, just because I’ve shunned the iphone and ipad lifestyle, it doesn’t prevent me from falling into the same category as those who are connected around the clock.
I love my kids, a lot. And l know their childhood is but a droplet of dew in the late morning sun; it’s about to evaporate before I can even notice it’s on its way out. And still, I shoo them off my computer chair as I finish my coffee each morning, zoning into one more cooking blog, craigslist ad, or facebook link. Can I reiterate even one of these articles right now? Not a chance. (Okay, I haven’t forgotten about that recipe for fresh Mango Lassi with toasted pistachios yet, but you get the point.)
The first step to recovery is admitting the problem. I know I was ahead of the game in this- I realized long ago that facebook was the devil on my shoulder, and that I’d forget what my family looked like if I had any form of pocket-sized technology at hand. I am inspired that I’m no longer the only kid in this camp. We know it’s bad, just like we know tv and junkfood are “bad.” Moderation is key. But, I can’t say that anyone’s given me a plan for using technology in moderation. When you’re addicted to something, moderation isn’t really an option. You’re either on the wagon, or you’re off. (Hanging on to one wheel spoke as you drag behind the wagon in a cloud of dust still counts as being on it, by the way.)
I want off.
I want to choose to tune into conversation with my kids at breakfast time instead of escaping into online editorial about parenting. I want to go for a local hike instead of reading a piece on NH’s 50 best trails and musing over the idea that someday it’d be fun to do ’em all.
But when I’ve got a lit up rectangle beckoning me from the table, just teeming with every possible bit of information I could ever need, from what my friends are up to, to how the nesting eagles are holding up this afternoon…. well, geez. I’m always thinking of something I want to know, be it the weather or how many medium-sized apples are in one pound. Half the time I’ve forgotten what I wanted to look up by the time I reach the keyboard- indicative of how important it must’ve been. Some things are important. Inter/national news. The weather. The adoption forum that helps me keep my adoptive parenting knowledge and technique in check. That stuff’s okay. It’s all the other fluff in between that I’m struggling to manage.
I believe some people can balance the draw of a screen well. Those are the people who are NOT addicted. They aren’t trying to justify the use of their tech one way or the other. They are comfortable with it, they like it, and they are fully confident that their life isn’t suffering as a result. Good for them.
I am just not one of those people. Perhaps it comes down to the distracted vs. the focused. I have been the window-side daydreamer since preschool. And now, instead of daydreaming into the clouds, I daydream into the cloud. (Computer joke!)) In other words- I waste time. It’s unintentional, and not derived from boredom. There are a thousand things on my mental to-do- some creative, some necessary. It’s not even a procrastination factor. I actually like to clean, and cook, and get laundry done. A clean, prepared space makes me at ease. So, how do I stop myself from being lured into the light every time I pass by my monitor? So I can actually have the time to tackle everything I want (and need) to accomplish? Not sure I have an answer. All I know is that my flitting towards the glow of the screen is purely out of habit, not a desire to put things off til later.
I could be like that family that eliminated all post-1986 technology from their home for a year, or I could be like Pakistan and ban Facebook. (Which only lasted 12 days; even Prophet Muhammad can’t stay away.) Or, I could do something realistic. But, what? I’ve already deliberately skimmed down my facebook feed to be less distracting. I don’t have the extra gadgets. We have a no-TV-before-dinner policy that’s been in place so long it’s by way of nature now. What’s left?
What I want is a solid plan to limit my own screen time to a minimum, and to do it happily. If it’s inconvenient or frustrating, I’d be missing the point of the challenge. To make life better. Richer. I’m home a lot now and see a need to tap in to the world outside my walls a time or two per day. But I want to do that with intention. I don’t want to waste any more time. I also don’t want to set myself up to fail.
Here’s to proclaiming a change in my screen time. Instead of dwelling on why it’s bad, I’m going to dwell on how to make positive adjustments to the way I plug in. It may involve a little research, and that may mean a little more screen time to reach a solution… but it’ll be deliberate screen time, I promise. (?)
With any luck, I’ll have my own article to circulate around the web about how to stop relating to such articles, and to start living more despite the crux of them.
All ideas welcome.