I saw this video quite a while ago, and it really captured one of my main frustrations with my own technology use.
I get tunnel vision when I am using my smart phone, and my son has noticed that. Sometimes when I intend to use my phone, he bats at it to get me to change my mind. But many other times, if I am looking, I can see him set aside his hope for my attention when my phone appears because he has learned that means ‘Mom’s busy.’ That interaction- a child willing to be independent when a parent is occupied- is wonderful and desirable on its own. But my discomfort lies in how often I am choosing to busy myself with my phone, and what exactly I’m spending my time on rather than engaging in the present (and often with my son).
There are many resources online about disconnecting from technology, and they can explain the benefits of it better than I can. I will note, however, that while some of the sites I reference are on a crusade against media use- particularly by parents- I am not. I don’t presume to generalize my own frustrations and struggles to anyone else’s experience. And it would be an ironic misstep for me to spend my newly-freed time judging or policing other people’s actions.
First, the “Abundant Mama” blogger at Awesomely Awake tackles the topic of limiting media use from the perspective of “Quieting Your Mind.” This is part of her Project 52: Stay Awake series of this year, which is about the larger topic of purposeful living. Many of the weekly posts from that series suggest fun, meaningful activities parents can do with their children; the kinds of things I envision myself doing more of if I spend less time on the internet. The Amaze Yourself and Unplug post from earlier on the same blog offers a list of fun and easy hands-on activities to do with the family when your screens are powered down.
Another blog, Hands Free Mama, describes one mom’s daily commitment to “let go of daily distraction and focus on someone or something meaningful.” I can completely relate to her statement about when she realized she wanted to be more purposeful about her technology use: “I realized that the ability to respond within seconds to an email message and multi-task three things at once was maybe not such a great thing after all.” She has helpful suggestions for “baby steps” toward becoming more unplugged in her post Where To Begin?
And technically I should have buried this least-related point somewhere in the middle, but bear with me. I recently enjoyed an article from Christianity Today about the Fading Art of Slow Communication, which explores various aspects of the lost art of writing by hand: not only the decline of snail-mail in the electronic age, but also the fact that handwriting has become awkward and unnatural. For instance, because I am distancing myself from my phone, I dug up a spiral notebook and a pencil to organize my thoughts for this blog series. It was so surreal to sharpen a pencil (?!) and set out to write a fair amount of content *manually.* I instantly felt like I was 10 years old again. I even doodled all over the top of the page and showed it off to my son. Just to assure everyone, and myself, that this art isn’t completely dead yet, I want to include this beautiful video of Master Penman, Jake Weidmann. Jake describes how we as a society lose something when we “abdicate [writing and art] to the machines we create:”
The next question may rightfully be, “OK, so you want to use technology less. Just do that. Put the phone down. Why make a big deal out of it?”
I have found that the decision to use technology more purposefully is more complicated than it seems. Yes, the user of the technology has all of the power over how that equipment is used. Yet I am dissatisfied with the effects technology is having on my life. How can technology affect my life in ways that are contrary to my stated desires? More on that soon! Part of changing any habit is to examine what the undesirable behavior does for you, or what you gain (or try to gain) from it. I will look at that and then share the trial and error process I’ve gone through so far in trying to change my own technology habits.