As we sat at this year's Thanksgiving dinner table surrounded by friends and family, listening to the clinking of utensils and corny jokes well worn over the years, we looked over and noticed the kids' table. Instead of conversation, fighting, or even silence, the only noise to be heard was the clicking of cell phone buttons. Their food was an afterthought, a bite between movements in a game or texts to someone else. While we certainly didn't expect them to be deep in conversation about socio-economic trends, we wondered how their world would be different from ours...
So we began wondering about the topic of tech and its relationships to the people around us. In the spirit of the holiday, it seemed downright wrong people, even kids, were connecting with their tech instead of the family right there with them. How can parents, adults and children better keep tech part of their lives without it intruding with human interaction? Here's a few ideas:
Don't start or end the day staring at a screen. While this may seem like a difficult change, especially for chronic email and Facebook addicts, studies point out staring at a screen at certain times of the day can ruin natural sleep schedules. And starting the day away from the digital helps keep us focused on planning and getting the day started away from the usual multi-tasking connected to being online. The internet holds so many strong temptations that it's easier for us to set a task that gets us in the right frame of mind before we have access to that fire hose.
Take Breaks Throughout the Day
We take walks during the day, make calls on a Bluetooth headset so we can move around our office, turn off all our devices at lunch, and always eat with a coworker or friend. By practicing these techniques we're able to better stay focused, as it's been a long known fact taking breaks are integral for maintaining focus (and physical health). It's refreshing to not have anything else to think about but your meal and how your friend is doing, if only for 20 or 30 minutes. We also hate it when people text throughout a meal. Your time is precious and so is ours. We feel mutual respect for that time when we engage each other wholly.
Many people do digital sabbaticals or participate in the National Day of Unplugging. When we go camping we turn our cellphones off when we set up camp and don't turn them on until after we're packing up to go. It's amazing how our devices feel when we come back after even as few as three days away. We appreciate the conveniences they provide more and enjoy their features differently.
And we get to do those analog things we don't always think about, like reading a physical book, chopping wood or just getting outside and enjoying nature without distraction. We have a finite amount of willpower and attention and this time away feels like meditation on how to use it wisely.
As ironic as our name is (we're a tech blog that's named unplugged) the reason we write about technology is because we love and appreciate it. Sometimes the best way to do that is to take some time off from it.
When do you turn your stuff off? How do you maintain the balance of technology in your life? Tell us in the comments.