I remember the day my wife looked at me and said, “I feel like a smartphone widow!”
“What?” I responded.
“Daniel, you look at that screen more than you look at me. You check on the status of the Carolina Panthers more than you check on me throughout the day. You spend more time emailing other people, than you spend talking to me. I feel like I’ve lost you.” That conversation stopped me in my tracks. It was the first smartphone I owned, and my wife was right, it was consuming me. Something had to change.
In my last post, we discussed how we’ve added technology and media to our lives, but haven’t added any time to the day. By adding these things, we’ve had to subtract something, and last time we discussed how one casualty of adding media and technology is the subtraction of downtime. Downtime is vital to experiencing creativity and pleasure. The unbridled consumption of media and technology leads to the death of creativity and the inability to experience genuine pleasure (If you didn’t read that post, and would like to click here.) And that leads us to the second, and bigger casualty of media consumption.
2. The bigger casualty of media consumption is relationships.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles with the unbridled consumption of media and technology, because according to a study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average teenagers spends 6.21 hours consuming media daily. That study was also started 10 years ago and released in 2012, can you imagine if they updated the numbers? Media has only become MORE accessible.
All of the time spent with screens equals less time with people. Even if you are watching TV together or texting someone, it’s not the same as spending quality time with those you love.
My addiction to my iPhone made my wife feel like an iPhone widow. Are you treating your spouse the way I was treating mine? Are you neglecting your kids because of your commitment to a sports’ team or reality TV show? Because there are not only smartphone widows and widowers, there are also media & technology orphans—kids whose parents spend more time with a screen than wrestling with them on the floor or reading them a book.
The only way I could break out of my addiction, was to stop using media all together. In 2011, I decided to go 10 Days Without Media. No screens, books, magazines, music or the internet for 10 days. I did make an exception to read my Bible, but other than that everything else had to go.
The first few days were tough, and I found myself sitting on the couch a few times wondering what to do. But then I picked up my guitar and started creating music instead of consuming it. I also invented a few games with my kids, and made up a few stories. Now, I try to make it a regular habit to turn off my phone, and set up boundaries with technology so that it no longer gets in the way of my relationships with those I care about.
And that’s my challenge to you as we go into the holidays. What if you had a device-free holiday this year?
What if you turned off smartphones, iPads, computers and televisions throughout Thanksgiving weekend and Christmas Day. Do you think it might be worth it? I know it might be tough—especially if you have teenagers in the house—but what if you tried it? Do you think your family might connect better?
Or maybe for you, a completely device free holiday is too much. Maybe you enjoy watching a Christmas movie or two with your kids — that’s fine! But make the rule that you can only consume media together as a family.
I don’t know what would be best for your family, but I would imagine that if you did this—if you had a device-free holiday—it may be your best ever.
Link: Foundation Study