Last week I gave some examples of ways that technology and social media are too habitually entrenched in our lives. But extricating ourselves from "the web" seems to be easier said than done. This week I'll give several suggestions how people can set sane boundaries that keep them connected and plugged-in without having their entire lives taken over.
I used to have a wonderful shepherd-collie for a pet. We taught her to shake before we gave her a treat. The funny thing was, this dog was so smart that she started to initiate the shake when she wanted something to eat. I'd be eating dinner and this hairy paw would suddenly hover in front of me. It was cute, and I would give the dog something off of my plate. My wife began to kid me, "So who has who trained?" It kind of makes me think about how technology has changed over the last 15 years. Remember when cell phones were exotic gadgets it seemed only traveling salespeople had? Now it seems everyone has one "for emergencies" and it has become the easiest way to reach people at any time of day. Remember when many of us had to sit at a computer at work or home to connect online? We initiated the action. Now the web is connected right to our laptops, gadgets, and phones-and continually beeps, buzzes, and feeds us emails, texts, and status updates. Just like my smart dog turned the tables on me, we should be thinking about the way we respond to the technology in our lives. The question "So who has who trained?" may be a wise place to start.
Here are a few ideas to try personally, in our families, and in our community:
1. Remember there is an "off button." Remind yourself that you can use it-and shut the electronics down after a certain time each the evening, during personally important periods of time, and by all means when you're sleeping. Do you really need to respond to a text after 9 or 10 pm? It's not like it won't be there in the morning
2. Decide what you want each moment to be about. Do you want to go for a walk or do you want to text message with a friend? The truth is, when you do both you probably aren't doing justice to either activity.
3. Keep a media basket for dinnertime and other important family times. Rhett Smith at the Fuller Youth Institute website suggests, "Place a tray or basket where all people present can physically place their cell phonesSetting aside these devices visually demonstrates to yourself and others that you're wanting to be present with those you are in relationship with. This is a great practice to institute as a family at home, placing a basket or tray in a prominent place in the house where all members of the family can place their electronic devices."
4. With Lent just around the corner, might congregations consider supporting each other in a different type of fast-abstaining from habitual use of electronics and unhealthy consumption of social media?
5. Observe Screen-Free Week 2012 from April 30May 6, an annual initiative to "encourage children, families, schools, and communities turn off TV, video games, computers, and hand-held devices and turn on life."
Technology is a great, provided that we keep it in its place-a tool that we control. Not the other way around. And remember, the point of cutting back is so we can foster good relationships with the people in front of us, and spend more time doing things we can all enjoy together: hobbies, games, exercise, good conversations and so on.
Oh-and get in touch with me at Family Services (723-1330) if you'd like your school or organization to promote Screen Free Week 2012. Maybe a few of us could sit down and brainstorm some ways we could help people get untangled from "the web" by highlighting some activities that promote health and wholeness.
Ian Eastman, M.A., is a community educator with Family Services of Warren County. Go to www.fswc.org to subscribe to its new Family Services Parenting E-news-a free, once-monthly dose of inspiration and tips to promote the health and well-being of your family.