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Monday, November 18, 2013

When to Unplug- Battling Media in Our Life

A group of friends and I are reading through the book Seven by Jen Hatmaker. The full title of the book is, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, YIKES- right? The number seven comes from the seven areas of addressing access: food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. Two weeks ago was addressing media. Jen and her family more or less completely unplugged from media- I did not do this but did limit quite a bit.

At first I figured this week didn't really apply to me because we do not watch much TV and never when Gabriel is awake, but this week was much bigger than just TV. I have had my data phone for a little over a year and half (six months of that we were in Japan so it wasn't used) and I honestly didn't think it would be as addicting as it really is. Yes smart phones do provide a new level of convenience but that convenience becomes irrelevant with how much time in the present is wasted by zoning out on our phones.

When we got our phones I was very clear with Chris that I didn't want to become those parents who spent time on their phone while waiting for school to start rather than engaging with their child. I also didn't want to be that friend who seemed more interested in keeping up with texts, e-mails and social media rather than the person/people right in front of him/her- This isn't to say that checking your phone briefly here and there is bad but be honest and real with yourself as to how much those "brief" moments are adding up to. Just the other day while waiting at the pharmacy in Costco there was a mother and her three boys in line ahead of us. The mother and the oldest child were glued to their phones and during the 10 minutes we stood there I am almost certain I did not hear any one of them converse with one another. It broke my heart.

I am by no means not guilty of this myself. My challenge this week was to not suck myself into my phone while riding in the car or at night before bed- these are perfect times built into my day where I can easily be intentional with communicating and engage with my family and husband yet I've been choosing media instead. I'm also guilty of playing on my phone when in the staff room during lunch when I'm guest teaching- HELLO, this is my prime adult conversation time, what the heck am I doing?!

Here are times where I believe and am striving to be off my phone and unplugged:

  1. In the presence of my child: This doesn't mean I cut everything the instant Gabriel awakes but it does mean I should not be scrolling Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I see no harm in taking a phone call or answering a text but the other mindless zoning on my phone needs to wait until nap time or bedtime. 
  2. While riding in the car: Like I said earlier, this is great time for me to talk with Chris and have Gabriel listen to conversation. And this should go without saying but of course NEVER while driving, just don't do it. 
  3. At dinner: Growing up while at my mom's TV was off and no phone calls were taking during dinner time. It was great- we all sat around the table and it was super meaningful to me. I didn't necessarily like being "forced" to sit up straight and finish my plate but I did love the intentionality of engagement and talking about our days. No phones at the dinner table. 
  4. Out to coffee or hanging out with a friend: When there is a real, physical person right in front of you, that is where your attention should be. As mentioned above, that doesn't mean I can't check my phone once and awhile- just means I shouldn't spend more time with social media than my amiga! 
  5. In Church: Trust me, I am just as great of a multitasked as the next lady claiming to be but the truth is there is no way you can possibly be attentive to the message being shared when you're reading FB updates. Let's be real. 
  6. When it's bedtime: Most nights when I tell Chris I can't sleep I tell him while my face in being light by the screen of my phone as I swipe through websites and different forms of social media. I cannot tell you how many times he has told me that he's read that looking at a backlit screen before bed interferes with your body's ability to know it's tired… The phone stays downstairs. Keeping the phone downstairs also inhibits me from checking it in the middle of the night when I stir, causing me to have an even more disrupted sleep pattern. 
Okay so when do I feel like it is a good time to plug in? Good question. Well if I'm intentional with engaging with Chris when he gets home from work, I spend some time blogging and on social media after Gabriel goes to bed. Nap time (as mentioned above) is another time I utilize, and in the morning before Gabriel wakes up. These are not times where I am ALWAYS plugged in- I do have house duties, books I'm reading, quite time, and hobbies but they are optional times for it. Of course I don't always follow these 'guidelines' but they are what I strive for. I want my kid(s) to know me and without a doubt feel that I was present in their life. I want our time together to be more about conversations, adventures and engagement with each other and less about being glued to a screen (of any form). 

What's your take on being 'plugged in' verses unplugged?

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  1. I've been trying to be more intentional about separating myself from my phone lately. It's scary how easily they can occupy your attention without you even thinking about it. Great post!

  2. As you know, I have cut my FB time drastically. FB for me was becoming very addicting, especially when we were on a TDY trip. Yes, it's a great tool to keep in touch, but do I really need to know what my 250 friends do everyday?! I caught myself ignoring Brandon and even the kids because I was on my iPhone looking at FB :( So, about a year ago I decided to put myself through "FB rehab" haha! I now only check FB on the computer after the kids have gone to bed about every two weeks. I am so happy that I "unplugged" from my iPhone and mac. I am now a better mother and wife because I decided to "unplug". Your Costco experience is such a common sighting. It's amazing how many couples and families are glued to their electronics when they are out and about. If people could just put their phones away and pay attention to what's in front of them we would all be better off. It's scary to think about what our society will look like in 5-10 years because of social media and smartphones. Great post Lena! I will have to look into that book, it sounds interesting :)

  3. I love this! I hate seeing toddlers who are already addicted to their parents' phones or ipad. It's so sad! Yes, technology and media can be a good thing, but I really agree with you and think we need to be engaging with our friends and family. Before our son was born, I would watch TV and play on my phone for a good percentage of the day. Now I rarely do either, and I have limited myself to only checking facebook twice a day (sometimes I don't even do that). It has been so much better and has allowed me to relax and spend more quality time with my family!

  4. Did you say that the lady in front of you had 3 kids and they were quiet for 10 minutes? I would count that as a win - not as a heart breaking moment :) I often use electronics specifically for times like this. You have no idea what the rest of her day looked like, right? And depending on the age of her 3 kids, she may not get the nap break you speak of... I think, like all things in life, moderation is the key. And it is probably not best to judge other people who have made the decision for what is good for their family. Maybe I'm a little defensive b/c we often embrace things that plug in...

  5. Love this Lena. This is something that I try to be proactive about all the time. Some weeks I do great and other weeks I seem to allow myself to be sucked into the social media vortex. I think its important to not give up. If you have a bad week, it doesn't mean you can't start with a clean slate the next. I don't want my sons to feel less important than my smartphone or tablet or miss opportunities to be present with my family. I love the goals you've set up, they're very similar to mine. Thanks for writing about this, its such an important topic!

  6. I, too, am guilty of scrolling through my phone when I should be engaged in what's going on in front of me. But I think the boundaries you've laid out here are absolutely reasonable. I also love how you also refer to setting aside specific times to be on our phone, because our phones are not inherently evil... we just have to closely monitor how much time we're spending on our phone. And... man, oh, man... Jen's book is definitely convicting. Still working my way through it...

  7. Becomes a slippery slop fast. :)

  8. I think every family needs to figure out what they are comfortable with and what works best for their family and be confident in that. I've definitely come to realize over the last couple weeks that less is more for us. :)

  9. You are TOTALLY right about all that- it never slipped my mind that that was only a tiny sliver of their day, there was never any judgement. Mentioning that family was not actually about them at all but about me and my family. It prompted self reflecting (I mentioned in the post of all the ways I am "guilt" of the same behavior) and just nailed down the convictions I was already starting to have based off of the reading.

    I too think every family needs to do what they feel is appropriate for them in the present and what they won't wish they had done differently when remenising about the past. This post was just about my own personal revelations about media and the direction that we (Chris and I) felt was appropriate for our family and those conclusions will look different from home to home. :)

  10. Haha, "the social media vortex," isn't that the truth! I love goals- they keep me in check! Especially when I publish them. ;)

  11. Not evil at all! Some people may not need boundaries or don't feel it's a problem in their life/family and that's fine! I however know that for our family it can easily become an issue because too much of it fosters a family experience (if you will) that neither of us want.

  12. I've read studies on what the impact of technology is on our younger generations… pretty fascinating. Chris has been the one to push no TV the most- he wrote a paper in college about the affects of TV in children and after that he vowed to not just plop his kids in front of the TV all day.

  13. Being from a totally different generation from you, its not hard for me to stay away from my smart phone. I use it as a sort of emergency device and I always always miss calls from people. But I do call them back and so that is solved. I don't like using it for web browsing unless Im out and have to look up something. It's great for coupons and I use it for that all the time. Im horrible at keeping it charged...just ask anyone who has tried to reach me! I prefer to spend time on my computer-reading FB posts or looking up patterns, checking for flights and other info. I just enjoy that a lot more than looking at a tiny screen. As for TV, having grown up in front of the tv, I do like certain shows but am no way glued to the set if something else happens. That is why I got the dvr from comcast, I can go off and do other things and record my show or just see it later on ON Demand.
    I can't tell you how distressing it is to me to see people with their faces in their phones while at a restaurant or in line, etc. SOme of the best conversations were growing up around the dinner table or waiting in line commiserating with a stranger. I think a lot of us are losing that "connection" with others that makes it easy for some to just lash out at others when they get mad or angry. I enjoy technology, but I use it wisely and it doesn't use me. I enjoy conversing with anyone and I attribute that to growing up in a large family always waiting for my turn to speak. I so wish I had had more kids, I would have like a large family but was not blessed with it, but since I am at JP, I instead enjoy all the kids whose lives I get to touch and try to give them a little love and joy each day. Oops, kind of got off the track there. Oh well...Take care Miss Lena!

  14. Great post Lena. I haven't even allowed myself to buy a smart phone yet (I'm still in the dark ages with my old school phone...haha!) because I know myself and my addiction to facebook, pinterest, and twitter would take over...not to mention all the apps out would not be pretty!! But that's not to say that I'm immune to technology...our laptop sits open all day and it's almost magnetic sometimes how I'm drawn to it...not cool! Especially when I should be playing with my daughter or having a conversation with my husband. Thanks for this convicting post - I gotta check out that book - sounds right up my alley! :)

  15. Wonderful post. This is a delicate balance isn't it? I have scheduled "plugged-in" time. Also, I try to remember to turn off my phone (power it down) when I'm engaged in unplugged time... this way the inconvenience of powering up will often curb the need to look at my phone. Plus, I turned all my notifications off and have my phone on silent. I will eventually see messages, notifications, etc. - just not immediately... and I'm okay with that.

    Wishing you a blessed day.


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