Do we Need to Unplug to Create Balance?

This past week I have spent a lot of time analyzing how I go about my daily life with technology in it. As I moved from day to day throughout the past 7 days, I found myself asking if taking my phone with me certain places was really necessary. I noticed a lot. For example, in the mornings, when I get my daughter out of her crib, I find myself automatically grabbing my phone to take it with me to grab her. The thing is, if I were to get a phone call or text when I was getting her up in the morning, I wouldn’t stop what I was doing with her to answer it anyways, yet I am so programmed not to live without my device, that I just have it with me always.

As I moved through the week, I also took time to look at the people around me. Yesterday, for example, I was at the Belle of the Ball, (princess party) with my 3 year old. My daughter was so excited about seeing the princesses and wearing her princess dress, that it was impossible not to feed off of her enthusiasm and get caught up in the moment. When we got to the party, my first reaction was to want to capture every moment, so I could share it with my husband when I got home. And, well, to be honest, that’s kind of how the party started out…. and then I got to looking around the room. Cell phone after cell phone was out doing the exact same thing…capturing the moment, but we were all IN THE MOMENT, and very few seemed to be soaking it in first hand. It made me think about the video “I Forgot My Phone“, that Justine posted in her blog this week. There was more picture posing going on then dancing, and I took a step back, looked at my phone and decided to tuck it back into my pocket and take in the moment first hand. I didn’t need to turn off my phone, or leave it in the car to do this, I just simply put it away and enjoyed my daughter’s excitement with her in that moment. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

But, just becauseBraya princess I happened to take this picture, I’m going to share her cuteness with you all anyways! haha Sorry!!! What I did realize in this moment though, was that this one photo we took before we left the house, was enough.
The memory was there for her to look back on in the future, but capturing the moment did not need to be the main event of this special moment with her.

 

Throughout this past week I have spent a lot of time considering what Unplugging  means to me. I’ve also thought about if I feel that it is necessary. Awhile ago, I randomly came across this video on Facebook.

This week I wasn’t surprised to see it again when it came to the weekly readings. This young man makes some excellent points. He states that while “technology claims to connect us, connections have gotten no better”. I think he is right too. I agree that using devices enables us to avoid face to face interactions when we want, but also helps us to make connections to those who are far away with the touch of a button. I think it is something that we need to think about. There are definitely endless advantages to having technology accessible, but there is an URGENT need for people to find a balance of how much tech time is enough… or where that limit is when it comes time to put the phone away and plug into the reality around you.

Sophia Breene, guides us to consider many important points in her article Why Everyone Should Unplug More Often. She points out that “spending tons of time online can actively harm relationships, interpersonal communication skills, and mental health.” As we have gone through this class this semester, I think we would all agree that this is valid. What I disagree with however is the need to UNPLUG in order to prevent this from happening.

Here is why:

Unplugging to me, means disconnecting from all sources of non-face to face communication. Phones. Emails. FaceTime. etc. To me, unplugging, really means, becoming totally inaccessible. And, frankly, I don’t think this is necessary in order to get the cleansing effects of not using technology. Put your phone in your pocket, and keep your hand out of it. Put your phone on the counter, and leave it there. I don’t think there is a need for it to be totally unplugged, rather a balance needs to be created.

Last year, a friend of mine made the decision to unplug from technology from 10pm until 8am every week night. It seemed a harmless, and maybe even healthy idea. Here is what went wrong. One night, her father had a heart attack. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance and later passed away. Family from all around desperately tried to reach my friend, but was unable to reach her. Staying up-to-date with technology, she no longer had a landline and was virtually inaccessible during this emergency. As a result, she never made it to the hospital in time to see her father before he passed. To me, and my friend, this was a tragedy. Having to have someone drive to her house to get her in person, almost seemed like a blast from the technological past. But it was the reality of unplugging. 9223503647_e12e740835_b Photo Credit: Trojan_Llama via Compfight cc

This is just one reason why I don’t agree with unplugging. What I do propose instead, is to find a balance. Choose times/situations/ scenarios where you decide that your phone will not be pulled out. Create a balance and stick to it. It is all about setting limits and being true to them. It is just as freeing to put your phone on the shelf and leave it alone without having to turn off, if you can handle NOT checking it every 5 minutes. One thing that I have done is allocate special ring tones on my phone to my husband, siblings, parents, and daycare provider. This way, I can keep my phone with me and be aware that I am receiving text messages or phone calls, but not have to race to my phone when I am in the middle of other important daily events, without worrying I will miss an important call or text. This has worked really well for me until now. Alternatively, putting my phone on the “do not disturb” setting but including the people who need 24/7 access to me in my “favourites” is another effective way of being able to disconnect from technology without needing to be 100% unplugged. Through doing this, the people in my favourites, can still get through on my phone, while the beeps and bells on my phone notifying me of new Facebook posts, snapchats, instagrams, Google Plus community posts,  etc., can be minimized while I am plugging in to the reality around me, preventing me from missing life’s simple pleasures of day to day happenings.

Instead of unplugging, perhaps it would be better if the concept of “creating balance” catches on and helps people to develop and follow new protocols for how to connect (without going crazy) in the Internet Age. Sophia Breene has many helpful suggestions.

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Photo Credit: PaprikaMuffins via Flickr

Mary Beth Minton, had a helpful Ted Talk where she pointed out that it is easy to limit the screen time for children by “filling time playing in snow, laying on floor playing with toy, and sparking imaginative play”. I think if tech time is provided to children in moderation, balance can be created. Of course this also goes back to the role modelling that parents provide for their children. If parents limit their child’s tech exposure, but are constantly connected to their device, there will be inconsistency, and it will only be a matter of time before the child finds their way to being connected at all times like their parents.

So, there you have it. Do I think it is necessary to unplug? No. Do I think it is necessary to set boundaries to limit times and situations when devices should be present? Absolutely. As we become more comfortable with the way that technology is integrated into our everyday lives, I think, we, as humans, will become better at finding this balance, and in turn become better connected with the outside world we are living in. This is my hope, and my goal. I look forward to continuing to find this balance in my life, as I model this for my children as they grow and look up to me for guidance!

Thank you to everyone in my EC&I 830 class for helping me to open my eyes to the bigger tech. picture out there! I am so glad that we embarked on this journey together! I look forward to seeing many of you in the future in other grad courses along my way! Have a great summer everyone… and thanks for reading!

 

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5 thoughts on “Do we Need to Unplug to Create Balance?

  1. I think most of the debates in this class come down to balance. I am so happy that you shared this story of the princess party. I don’t have kids but I see the constant stream of pictures in the feeds and see friends and family members constantly taking pictures of their children and I have often wondered the same thing as you about living in the moment. I am not much of a picture taker myself but hope that when I do have kids I am able to find balance and be in the moment as you were!

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  2. I like your idea of having your family as your favourites so you can still be contacted in an emergency situation. I just went through that with my mom being sick and eventually passing away. I had to leave my phone on at night in case the hospice called with any news. In this case, I knew I had to keep it on but if there was an emergency, like in the case of your friend, nobody would be able to reach me.

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  3. Well said!! Great last post! I can relate to thinking more about my phone and whether or not I need it with me. I think the small steps you’ve taken to program your phone so key people can reach you is important, but I wonder how many of us think of this. Always enjoy your posts! Have a great summer!

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