By Leane Pupo
Wired. We are all wired. We are so tapped into the grid that we often find it hard to escape. We have become one with our laptops, tables, smartphones, ipods, or ianythings, that we may not know how to function without them. Are we really becoming part machine? Are we turning into androids?
I often wonder about this zombie movie and game craze, then I look over at the teenager with the glued on headphones in the corner and the blank glazed over eyeballs and think, “Ah, right. We live in a media zombie land”.
Now, do not get me wrong. I love all my high-tech gear. I have a tablet, a labtop, a desktop, a smartphone, ipod… you get it. However, I cannot help but think we can often lose touch with reality and simpler things… like a face-to-face conversation. Y’know, REAL face-time.
As a parent, Psychology major, and a person that grew up with cassette tapes, beta players, and laser discs. I can tell you we have it amazing now. We can grab our phones, something now significantly smaller than the bricks from the 80’s, and can do pretty much ANYTHING. When my 8 year old asks me a question, and I do not know or simply rather him find out, I can hand him my phone and just say “google it”.
Hell, many times we are sitting with family and friends and everyone simultaneously pops out their phone to check the score, movie times, or tries to beat the surrounding crew to a triviaesque answer. It is wonderful but it also makes me wonder if there is a negative consequence.
I can tell you that the boob-tube has picked up on it. It is very scary to me when you watch a Kay Jewelers commercial with an adult couple (oh, yeah… not teens or tweens) and her head is so damn buried into her phone during lunch, that her partner has to send her a text message to give her an expensive gift! WTF?!?! How is that even remotely ok? If I ever had to ask my partner more than once to look away from his phone and come back to Earth, I would have walked out. The saddest part, this is so TRUE. We are losing our partners, friends, family, and kids to the screen.
How many parents have handed their kid their phone or tablet or bought them a portable DVD player, just so they can have a quiet dinner at a restaurant? Why do we do this? Is it the same reason we pump our kids with Ritalin and tell them they are ADHD? So that we can create an excuse to numb them long enough to have a cup of coffee? I am not parent of the year, I have given my kids these devices (not the drugs – that’s for a different rant) in moments of desperation, even after swearing I would not be THAT parent. Yet, I have done something even better now. My hyper-ass kid is in a martial art. It teaches him discipline, respect, self-defense, cooperation, and a healthy dose of competition and achievement. It makes him centered, focused, and wipes him out after keeping him so active.
After spending years with a frustrated gamer chucking the controller at the TV when the screen flashed “GAME OVER”, I unplugged it. I do not think games make you violent, I think they have a great way of challenging us and teaching us hand-eye coordination. But I also know that sitting on your ass watching tv all day, or playing video games for hours on end, is bad. Additionally, hand that someone a bag of chips and they are so sucked into the screen that they reached the bottom before knowing it.
Kudos to Michelle Obama and all of the other sponsors that are having kids get up, get out, and get active. Great, we are slowing down childhood obesity. Now what about us?
When was the last time you played a game, completed a crossword puzzle, or a Sudoku grid, that wasn’t on a screen? What about drawing or writing? What about taking a picture on a device that did not automatically upload it to Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube? Last time you picked up a book? That was actually made of paper?
So what do I want? I want us to unplug. Not permanently. Just long enough to do that thing you have been postponing because you have been too absorbed with your socialmedia, tv, or game to do. Paint the house, or the fence, wax the car…
Seriously. Take yourself and your kids to the park. Go get a massage and play tic-tac-toe. Build a fort. Make hot chocolate and play a boardgame. Do anything that does not require “enough charge”. And then do it again in a few days.
Tomorrow, I am unplugging from the world and taking my spouse and kids with me. We are going to speak to each other and look each other in the eye. We are going to eat together. We are not going to touch our computers or phones. You will not be able to text me or IM me. I will be off the grid. Just a whole 24 hours. Eventually, I may build to 48. I challenge you to give it a try.
Ironically, I typed this on my laptop and uploaded it to a blog… but guess what?
I got you to read it.
Note: Yes, you can use your transportation, if you are awesome and have an electric car. This does not include coffee machines (even I can’t do that). Nor, does it mean the lights are off and you can’t cook.