Technology is here to stay. That's a fact! I love the benefits of technology. I love how it makes our lives run smoother. It's almost impossible to go without technology in this high pace society we live in. However, I believe we can put up healthy boundaries. In truth, I believe we must.
For me, this need to establish responsible perimeters was crystallized when my family and I took our first RV trip down to Cape Canaveral to visit the Kennedy Space Center. It was a seven-day trip and the best vacation we have ever taken. Among the additional family members we took along with us, was our 15 year-old niece. She’s a very sweet, mild-mannered, and intelligent young lady. But, what a revelation and a glimpse into what may be awaiting us in just a few more years with our own children.
She, literally, kept her head down the entire trip clicking, swiping, liking, typing and searching on her iPhone. Rarely, did she look up and volunteer a conversation. Click, click, swipe, is all I saw. We joked about it. I tried to hide her phone. Newsflash: bad mistake. So determined to get her off her phone I purchased a canvas, brushes, paint and coaxed her to join me outside under a blanket of trees to paint. I coerced her to join my eight-year old daughter and me down at the lagoon for early morning yoga. Click, click, swipe. It was exhausting...for me, that is.
As we often do as parents, I turned that experience into teachable moments for my two young children. Then, it dawned on me. Adults are just as addicted to their cell phones as the young are. What our children actually learn and replicate in their lives is more "caught then taught." As it relates to the responsible usage of technology, they will learn by what I do more than what I say to do. For me, the technology that consumes an exorbitant amount of time is my cell phone. I love my cell phone.
Like most people, I use my cell phone for absolutely everything. In my mind, whatever my laptop can do, my cell phone can do better. I bank on my cell phone. I write, send, and read emails from my cell phone. I get my news through my cell phone. Paper calendars? That's so 80's. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Selfies. Shopping. Memos. Apps. Did I say I love my cell phone? I love my cell phone.
In asking my 11-year old son what did he notice about mommy during the fast, he quickly said, "You talked a lot more." I'm going to take that as a compliment.
For Christmas, my children received their first personal piece of technology – iPads, compliments of their grandmother. After about 10 hours of reading every disclaimer, setting up parental links, establishing daily limits, and blocking websites it dawned on me that the best discretion I could give my children was to show them, by example, what responsible technology use looks like. To start, I swore off the one piece of technology my children see me on the most – my cell phone. A fast, if you will. I would strip my usage down to the bare basics with the intent, after six days, to build back up responsibly.
This is what I learned:
Lesson 1: If you don't use it, you truly do lose it. I have not used a digital alarm clock in years. I have my cell phone for that. As such, I forgot how to set it up. First, I had to borrow my son's clock. Then, I had to have him show me how to set both the time and the alarm.
Lesson 2: I had to establish appropriate perimeters for what a healthy relationship with technology looks like. For this fast, I was a bit extreme. First, I swore off all social media. This meant no posting, no reading, no liking, and no going onto social media at all. Second, I took my cell phone out of my bedroom. No more late night “roll-overs” to check who texted me or to read the latest political article. I set it up in the kitchen. Third, no checking emails via my phone. I would go back to the laptop for that one. Finally, I set restrictions on when I would respond to text messages. Because I do some business via texting, I could not completely do away with this little feature. However, I spent no more than 30 minutes a day texting.
Again, this was a bit extreme. Yet, I believe there is some truth here. To solely use a phone as a device to conduct verbal conversations with another is a ground breaking idea for some – myself included. It's not a reasonable restriction for the long term, given the society we live in. But, in all honesty, it was cleansing. It was difficult. But, it was freeing. Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." Another poignant saying is, "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak."
Is it necessary to reach for my cell phone every time it beeps, dings, or chirps? Is it necessary to check all of my social media pages every two minutes? Do I really need to spend two hours or more swiping from one post to another, checking responses - did I get a thumb up or down, how many shares, likes and views? Everything has a place. But, I readily admit, sometimes it got ridiculous. Moving forward, less is more.
Lesson 3: In asking my 11-year old son what did he notice about mommy during the fast, he quickly said, "You talked a lot more." I'm going to take that as a compliment. But, he's right. I did. I first noticed it when we went out for Sunday morning breakfast as a family. Unfortunately, I was one of those parents who would be on their phone while out with the family. It was our first outing since the fast began. I talked and talked and talked and talked. Everyone just stopped, looked at me, and my husband said, "This is what you get when mommy is not on her phone." We laughed. But, it resounded in my heart. I'm keeping this one. My babies won't be babies forever. I'm making this learning a habit.
Lesson 4: As soon as I started the fast, I realized in order to succeed as I take things away I would need to replace them with something else. For me, I chose to just sit and talk to my children more. To listen to my son's stories that seemed to go on and on and on. I purchased a new sewing machine for my daughter and we completed some house projects together. I’m more than half way through a 600-page book I started reading the week before.
Discipline is intentional. It's not easy corralling oneself. It's much easier to just go with the flow. But, it’s less rewarding, in this case. The phone will go back into our bedroom. The digital clock is out. I will go back onto social media with some time limits enforced. I will not be on my cell phone while out with the family. My paper calendar is going back into the drawer. I will continue to shop, bank, and read emails from my phone. Slowly, but surely, and more responsibly my phone and I will reunite. I missed out on some tweets and being in the midst of news as it happened. I missed some interview opportunities because I responded too late. In some ways, it was cumbersome being without my cell phone. But, one thing I will not regret is the time I spent pouring into my children, my marriage, and myself.