Disconnected: Reclaiming True Connection in a Digitally Saturated World
I’ve got something on my heart, and it’s a little bit heavy and perhaps even controversial, but bear with me.
For several years now, I’ve had feelings of caution concerning electronics. I believe it’s important to limit usage, particularly in children, but in adults as well. This is something I’ve strived for in my own home. I have a strong desire to be a very present parent, and I don’t want to miss precious time spent with my kids because of dumb distractions.
When James was little, I tried to limit my own use of electronics – in general, but especially when he was awake. As he grew older, he was only allowed to watch a very limited amount of TV, and was only rarely allowed to play games on my phone, if at all.
My reasoning for this is simple –
I want my kids to grow up playing, being a kid, the same way I did.
But lately, I’ve come to understand that I’ve allowed this to slide. My little blog, I hate to admit, has consumed me more than I even realized. I was sticking my kids in front of the TV just to get a few more minutes of “work” in…. But really my problem was disorganization, a lack of time management, and even some level of laziness. I preferred spending my time doing “blog work” and “research” rather than playing with my kids or cleaning my home. I wasn’t using my time efficiently, and I was wasting precious time with my children.
Technology is so crazy these days. It’s getting crazier all the time. I just came across something called the “Wait Until 8th” pledge. The gist is that it’s a pact to wait until your child is in the 8th grade until they can own a smart phone, to let them be kids a little longer. This is just crazy to me… not that parents want to wait until 8th grade, but that there even has to be a “Wait Until 8th” pledge. (And 8th grade is still too young for a smart phone, in my opinion!)
But it just goes to show what kind of digital age we live in now – where everyone feels the need to be “connected” all the time, just in all the wrong ways….
I got a smart phone when I got married 5 years ago. Literally on our honeymoon, we took a trip to the Verizon store and got my new iPhone 4s. (Which, looking back, was a very poor decision. We couldn’t even afford to pay for gas to make the trip from where we were in Ohio to our new home in Oregon, we had to put it on a credit card…but we could afford a new iPhone?!)
Before then, I’d had a slide phone (a “dumb” phone that would slide open to expose a little keyboard) which I thought was oh-so-cool. And I was content with that phone; it was easy to text and it made calls, which is what a phone is for. Why would anyone use a phone for a computer when you already have a computer? It was confusing to me.
But, like everyone else it seems, the smart phone sucked me in. The ease of checking email, Pinterest, Facebook – anytime, anywhere. The endless apps to choose from, including my favorite money-saving ones. And I loved the camera (still do!) for snapping decent pictures no matter where I was.
I never worried about a smart phone being addictive to me. I was never a big gamer and I thought that games were the only reason you would become addicted. I thought I was safe.
What I didn’t realize was that I was already addicted to technology.
Long before getting a smart phone, I would spend hours a day online using my laptop. The smartphone just made it so much worse because it added a big layer of convenience. Not only could I continue looking at a screen for hours a day, in an instant I could check my Facebook, email, whatever crossed my mind, almost anywhere! In the car, at the grocery store, at church (shhh…), whatever I “needed” to check on or look up was always right there, a finger swipe away.
I honestly really hate this digitally-saturated environment we are in now. It’s harder than ever to truly connect with people. Everyone hides behind a screen – including me! We claim we are more connected than ever – Facebook allows us to keep in touch with relatives, friends, and distant acquaintances. Email keeps us in communication instantly, as does texting or messaging. We can see our loved ones when we are away, thanks to Skype or Facetime.
But the problem is, it is so addictive – phones and tablets, games and apps, social media – and we don’t know when to stop. We always have a screen open. We are always checking for new notifications, new emails. And meanwhile, our life is passing by and our babies are growing up, and we are missing it!
Obviously, I’m not against technology in and of itself. I’m writing this on a computer and I have a blog for goodness’ sake. And I’m not Amish. I recognize that technology has its place and its purpose.
But make sure you aren’t letting life pass by around you while you scroll through your Facebook newsfeed for the 15th time today. Instead of checking your email one more time (just in case something really super important has come up), put the phone down and play with your kids. Or just watch them. Soak them in – they truly are little for such a short time.
And even if you don’t have kids, or not young ones – be with your spouse, your siblings or parents, your close friends. Build those relationships. Because at the end of the day, those are what matter most. Connection to people is what is important. Not a screen. Not the world wide web.
We’ve lost connection. We cling to our screens instead of each other.
The addictive electronics are consuming our life, our purpose. The amount of time we waste on foolishness is insane – and meanwhile our kids are growing up faster than we can imagine and we are missing it to look at Facebook!
We ignore the child begging for our attention so we can write that “important” email. We choose to play silly games instead of watching our children play and be silly, soaking in those precious moments. We just have to text that person back right that minute, despite the fact our spouse is attempting to have a conversation with us.
We come up with all these reasons why we need to check on this or look this up or do this one last important thing. But our house is a mess, our marriage is suffering from the lack of genuine connection, and our kids are starved for our attention, wishing we would just put down the phone or laptop or tablet and take the time to be with them. Our relationships are suffering because we are so involved in our electronics that we forget about the absolute most important things in our life – the PEOPLE we love and care for the most, who are right in front of us.
I say it’s time to take back our connection with one another. It’s time to take our life back and stop letting technology rule us.
And no, I’m not saying you should kill your internet and only have a landline and spend all your waking hours playing with your children or gazing into your spouse’s eyes. That would be ridiculous. It’s important for kids to be able to play on their own, and as I said, technology isn’t bad or wrong in and of itself. I don’t think smart phones are evil or anything like that.
But be sure your priorities are in order. God, Family, Home…. Then Facebook, email, games.
Save the electronics for when your kids are sleeping and your housework or chores are complete. Please, make sure you are nurturing the connection with your loved ones and taking care of your responsibilities before wasting time on electronics.
I know these are probably controversial thoughts. People don’t like to hear that we should put down the phone and play with our kids – or, God forbid, clean our house or do something productive. But frankly, I think the reason it bothers us is selfishness and likely some level of addiction. We like our electronics. We like wasting time on games because they make us feel good in the moment. I know this because I’m right there. I’m realizing I’ve allowed this to become a problem and my family and home have been suffering because of it.
I’m writing this out of a place of conviction in myself. I’ve let my willpower slide for the sake of my blog lately, and today I realized my baby is almost 10 months old. 10 months! How did that happen?! The last few months are a bit of a blur because I’ve been too hyper-focused on other things that aren’t as important as my family.
I love my blog. It’s my baby and I’m very proud of it and hope for it to grow and flourish, and possibly even provide me with some side income down the road. But I need to make sure I keep the blog in its place. It comes after God, after my family and my REAL babies, and after my home.
It is far more important to me to be PRESENT for my husband and kids, and to stand by my values.
I believe it’s possible to be somewhat anti-electronics and still run a successful blog, simply by keeping my priorities in check. When my family feels cared for and my home is being run properly, THEN I can put any of my extra energy towards my blog. Lately, I’ve had it backwards, and that’s a very unhealthy place to be.
I challenge you to take a hard look at your life. What areas need shifted so that your priorities are where they should be? Are your relationships strained or flourishing? Are you truly connected to the people in your life?
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