Unplugging can mean different things to different people. For some, it means leaving the TV off at night and reading a book or praying instead of getting sucked into Season Four of “Breaking Bad.” For others, it means actually walking around the house and making sure they unplugged the flatiron, coffee maker or Christmas tree lights. For me, it was about six days without checking Facebook and limiting the checking of texts to once (okay…sometimes it was twice) a day. I was inspired after reading a Huffington Post article before the holidays where the author and other staffers were committing themselves to an almost week of no texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc., and wondered to myself, “Could I do this?” I was intrigued when I read “[P]eople have a
pathological relationship with their devices… People feel not just addicted, but trapped.” The word “trapped” spoke – no YELLED – to me and said, “THIS IS YOU!” I get home around 5:00 every day, say hello to Sam and Gannon, say goodbye to Jordyn or Meg, and immediately plug my phone in. I feed Gannon, I feed Sam… sometimes, there are inevitable “Ping Pings” that occur. Oooh… who is texting me? Who needs me right this minute? Who can’t remember that great restaurant we had dinner at last month? Who wants to know what size clothes Sam is wearing these days? Who is asking if I’ve tried that new Christmas Ale that everyone is talking about?
So we’ve got the phone open… why stop there? Let’s check Facebook! I can’t believe she would actually post that about her neighbor… Goodness, if you hate your job THAT much, why don’t you quit? Awww… what a cute baby! So I scroll and I scroll and as I’m scrolling, MY cute baby is happily sitting in his high chair trying some pasta and chicken. But who has time to pay attention to that when you may have gotten an email in the hour and a half since you left the office?? Yes, don’t worry… I’ll make sure that contract is reviewed before the end of the day tomorrow. Absolutely… I’ll meet with you to make sure you understand HIPAA. Now, about 15 minutes has gone by and Sam is slamming his sippy cup on the tray and Gannon is drooling over the thought of what may be left over under Sam’s little butt in the high chair. And I’ve missed every single minute of it. And I tell myself over and over that I’ll get better about this. In a text conversation with Sam’s dad about taking pictures, he said something to the effect that this generation’s kids are going to have these vivid memories of their parents constantly looking down at devices. He’s right… and what scares me most is not how this may impact Sam down the road, but WHAT I MAY BE MISSING. I may miss a hysterical fit of his laughter, his first step, him throwing a ball to me. Worse, I may miss a slip or fall, a tumble in the bathtub, a misstep on the stairs. Regardless, will any of these outcomes lead me to believe that looking at my iPhone in its cute, new Neapolitan case is more important than these moments I can’t get back? The texts will be there. So will the Facebook posts, the Instagram photos and the work emails. They aren’t going anywhere. Sam at 11 months and 354 days will be gone tomorrow.
After the last day of my self-imposed exile from the phone, I turned it back on and I looked at it again. I’m not going to tell you I didn’t. I’m also not going to tell you that I haven’t already in some ways fallen back into some of those patterns. But I’m not giving up on this just yet… after all, tomorrow is another chance and another opportunity to start over, make new and revise an approach, a way of thinking and doing, and determining and owning up to what really matters. And I have a feeling it’s nowhere to be found in something you plug into a wall…