Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Disconnect

I believe I'm among the last remaining people on earth without a smart phone.

Well, me and my husband. He doesn't have a cell phone at all. And, I guess, my kids too. My soon-to-be 7th grader insists she's the only person in her class without a cell phone. I don't understand why so many young kids need cell phones. I mean, I can see why some do... but now it seems like the norm, not the exception.

Anyway, that's for another post...

I have been feeling more and more out of it online lately. I don't have Instagram. I don't have apps. I don't download ringtones. I can't use Foursquare.

My phone just... makes and receives calls. A new added feature for me was that last year I got texting, finally. I know, way to jump into the 21st century, right?

But for me, it's enough. I think it would be great to have all those other options available to me but since it comes at a price, I just don't think the benefits outweigh the costs. And that's just me. I know some people have jobs that necessitate them being in contact with their office at all times. Even bloggers might need smart phones because they can do so many things with them, including using Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.

Recently I was out with a group of bloggers at a happy hour. We sat in groups, talking and getting to know each other. The group dynamics of humans has changed in the last few years, I feel, and this group was no different. Five years ago, we would have chatted and focused on each other in conversation. If we'd be interrupted it would be with a cell phone call which some might even silence and ignore it. But more recently, I've noticed that when conversation hits a lull or if a person has finished being interested in the topic at hand, it's a knee-jerk reaction to reach for their smart phone and check email or send out a quick tweet or check Facebook. It's annoying to me but also quite sad. Where has the art of conversation gone?

And adults are responsible for their own actions. I won't say they aren't. But those damn smart phones aren't helping matters. They are fun and interesting and so, so cool. However, they are just minions of temptation. Isn't it ironic? They keep us connected but they also cause us to disconnect from one another.

 I feel like the computer is already a big enough temptation for me. In the last year I've had to scale back my time online because I've watched myself place a higher importance on the words & thoughts of blog authors and forum administrators than I have on my own family. My priorities were all out of whack and the ingredient that had poisoned my balance was the computer. If I had a smart phone, I think my online presence would be more visible, but my real world presence would fade and be more and more distracted. I would be communicating regularly with women who I have so much in common with but have never met, and I'd be paying less attention to my own children. You see, I know myself. I know I would want to place boundaries on how much I'd be "on" my phone. But in real practice, I know I wouldn't have the willpower to disconnect myself.



Being online has had positive AND negative implications for me. Many days, the connection with others via the online community has saved my sanity. Many of my days are lonely and I crave conversation with other adults. Besides that, I have a continuous stream of questions running through my head; questions that need answers or reassurance or quieting. Getting online helps me with that. Being online is almost a necessity now. I was shocked this past school year that our school didn't even send home grade cards - we (the parents) were to simply check out the grades on the school's password-protected website. So having internet browsing skills aren't only a luxury nowadays - it's a requirement.

And yet, I do remember "the old days"... when getting online involved no more than checking my ONE (ha!) email account and scanning the offerings on ebay. I could easily go on vacation without my computer and think nothing of it. As a matter of fact, back when we had a desktop this was the only option. I would spend evenings after the kids went to bed doing scrapbooking, or reading a book, or even just watching TV with my husband. Now it's not unusual for us to both be on our separate computers in separate rooms, just ... disconnected.

We've both made an effort over the last year to intentionally avoid this behavior. Sometimes it will get the best of us and we'll notice we're missing a chance to spend time with one another; so we'll close our laptops and focus on each other. And it's not that I don't WANT to do this with my husband. In fact, I kinda think that the online community has made it that much easier for me to check out of my real-world problems, rather than force myself to deal with them. Face it: which would you rather do - read a hilarious blog post or sit down and discuss the next month's family budget? Would you rather browse photos from an amazing photographer's website or read over your new dental insurance benefit booklet?




So anyway, I guess (like I've said) there has to be a balance. For me, I'm not making a single penny off this blog so it can't be my job and I can't invest 40 hours a week on it if I'm not getting paid for it. If I were going to do something for pay, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be blogging. I love the online community but I guess I've just gotten to the point where I can see the drawbacks as well. I suppose I'd consider myself... enlightened.

I wonder if there will ever be a day when I disconnect altogether. I don't think it's realistic considering the direction society is going. Modern technology has made instant information more accessible and at some point, it will be affordable to everyone. Even stay-at-home moms, whose office managers need a sippy cup sooner than they need an email reply. For now I'm just going to stick with my dumb phone and keep telling myself I'm hip because I can text my kids' babysitters instead of calling them on the phone. That's so 1990.


Texan Mama

7 comments:

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I know. It's hard these days. It's hard to have all that technology connecting us to a world we have never met but somehow fulfilling us. I am very guilty of it. It affirms us somehow. Why doesn't our tangible world do the same? How are our kids gonna develop any social skills when we adults that disconnect with our world are the example?

KEEP BELIEVING

Ellen aka Ellie said...

During the school year, my days are long. I received a smart phone last October, and it has made a positive difference in my life in that I can get things out of the way when I'm away from home, so I have more time at home. However, he works a lot of evenings, so to be in the same room with him, I sit at my laptop--if I'm well prepared, I sit in his office with a book, but I don't always have one of those handy.

I was at a wedding shower the other day, and I did use my phone to take a picture, and someone else took out a phone to share pictures, but we weren't (at least at our table) like the women you mentioned.

You're right though, technology has caused a great shift. Our kids report cards were online only too, and I could see who looked at them and for how long. Less than 50 percent of the parents viewed the report cards during the year, and it's not because they didn't have the technology. Interesting, hm?

Stephanie Spencer said...

Yes to all. I am trying to not consult my phone more than once during a dinner date, which is a pathetic goal but here we are...

I wish we lived closer :)

Kate said...

Great post, so true! I have to remind myself to NOT check my phone (fb, twitter, etc) in the few hours my husband is awake after work. It's just plain rude, and there's plenty of time for it while he's sleeping or the kids are entertained during the day. And the awkward pause in a social environment when everyone reaches for their phone...happens all too often!

I too prefer to text my sitters. It lessens the blow when they say they are busy. I don't take rejection well haha

Foursons said...

I thought Foursquare was a game played in the school yard with a red ball and a box painted on the ground?

You're right about all of this. But, I think technology is so ingrained into our lives now that if you disconnect entirely you could be missing something really important. Not stupid FB statuses but something REALLY important.

Gigi said...

I'm guilty...I have a smart phone. And even though I agree with you 100% about how it distances us from real interaction - I won't be giving it up.

It is a balance thing. I haven't (yet) pulled it out when I am in the middle of a group of people to check Twitter....and I won't. It IS rude.

But it does give me the connection with people that I share a friendship with. It gives me the ability to receive a text or an email, in the middle of the day while at work, from someone who wants and values my opinion.

My smart phone, I find, doesn't distance me from real life connections nearly as easily as my laptop does.

kristi said...

I answer the phone all day so the last thing I want to do is be on my cell phone. I don't have a smart phone either!