Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of “Busyness”

Dear Lindsey,

It is astounding that the same tools that multiply efficiency of time can steal it in equal magnitude.  I would say that life would be better if electricity were never used, but wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite as I type on my word-processor and you read on your computer?

Kevin DeYoung, in his book,  Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

  • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, Unknownpeople pleasing and perfectionism),
  • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
  • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
  • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids.
  • Being addicted to technology.
  • Not resting enough.

Electronics Addiction

My last letter talked about overparenting and freaking out about my kids, but this one is more about freaking out over me….being addicted to technology.

Yes, I could say that the kids are the ones with the electronics problem. I took six teenagers for ten hours in a car last month, and I think I could count on my fingers the number of words they said to each other….with their mouths, anyway. It seems we are raising a silent generation – as their thumbs type the words (even while sitting next to each other in a car!) that we once verbalized.  I find it ironic though, that every time I want to say, “Put the phone down,” (which is an acceptable request in our house – any time) I have to stop myself from using my own phone first.

gadget-addictionDo I really think I am so “needed” that I cannot go a few hours without seeing if someone needs me on my phone? Do I think my children cannot survive minutes of my errand-running without having me on an electronic leash, able to be tugged at their beck and call?

Gone are the neighborly days in which I grew up, since neighbors are not as “used.”  When my brother, Tim, hit a baseball in the backyard that rearranged my brother Mike’s nose to be firmly planted into his eye, the neighbor (“my second mother,” we called her) came running with a role of paper towels before the injured one had even stopped running (and screaming). Those kind of neighborly bonding moments are gone! Why is it that broken noses in backyard baseball seem so much healthier than Snap Chat, video games and DISH? 🙂

When email first began its trend, I remember putting a tag at the end of my emails, “I check email on Friday afternoons only, so please be patient in awaiting a reply.”

WHAT?!

How did that ever work? Now, it seems perfectly legitimate for a coach to email a change in my kids’ 5:30 practice at 4:30!  Everyone assumes you are on the leash!  I had fourteen emails today, regarding soccer alone. Heaven forbid my family’s biannual dentist appointments come around, because – since I am the secretary and personal chauffeur of my four children – I get ten emails (two per child, and myself) reminding me, outside of the five identical texts and five automated phone calls… all to tell me about one appointment I had already put into my calendar six months prior – when the appointment was booked.  You’d think they are afraid that my family is so “busy,” we will forget the appointment!  And sometimes, we do.

Unknown-2My brain has become so accustomed to the fast pace of multi-tasking, that I can hardly sit for sixty seconds at a red light, without habitually grabbing my phone to check the few buzzes I missed since the last light. I mean, really: if I accidentally leave the house without my phone, I am shocked at how many times I reach for it (and notice only because it is not there). The old days of talking to the lady behind me in line have diminished into a world of looking at the top of her head, while she does the Smart Phone Slouch, as if sending approval for me to assume the same stance.

It has been proven that endorphins are released and produce a “high” when the phone buzzes or computer indicates, “You’ve got mail!”  It makes a subliminal desire for the same high if we go minutes without getting it.  (That must be why I miss my phone if I am without it for a nano-second.)

Last week, a baby whined in her car seat in a waiting room images-2where I sat. The mom typed away on her phone to who-knows-who while the little cry got a little more forceful.  I chuckled to myself, while I checked my own phone to see if my father in Colorado had taken his turn on Words with Friends. It is striking how a phone can eliminate the 1600 miles between my father and me… and yet distance the mom from her baby in the same room!

“We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of [some] users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/when-technology-addiction-takes-over-your-life)

It’s no wonder I feel so BUSY!

I would like to say I am going to commit to go back in time, and start square dancing in the barn with neighbors! Haha! I would first have to buy a barn and introduce myself to my neighbors – who might run from me if I were talking about square dancing!

Really, my goal is to utilize electronics to run life, not let electronics’ use run my life.

I want to keep electronics as tools I control – not the other way around, despite how difficult that is to actually live.

Unknown-3Maybe people who have the “phone basket” by the front door have good family dinners? Maybe those people who take forever to get back to me on email or text are actually living with the people in their house, and I should applaud it? Maybe it’s ok if my kid doesn’t have his own email to check at age seven?  After all, once the message-checking begins, it doesn’t end…forever!

“I had to apologize to God today, because I turned on my phone before reading my Bible,” a friend sharpened me as iron sharpens iron when she made this passing statement. How many times have quiet times, exercise, or my kids’ smiles been missed when I thought I needed to check “just one more thing” online?  I lightly enjoy Twitter and Facebook: I love hearing who had a baby, finding a tribute in memory of my friend, Jackie Lewis,  or seeing how many “liked” or “re-tweeted” my son’s April Fool’s joke on me. But the hourglass doesn’t stop dropping sand when I get distracted looking at the other threads completely unrelated to the priorities for my day!

images-3My husband has (brilliantly I might add) limited electronics’ use by our kids. It is easier to say “no” when they are four, than to try and backtrack on use when they are fourteen. If Google and Facebook limit the youngest age to be thirteen, it should at least flag more-conservative-than-the-Internet parents that maybe we should wait at least that long for them to get accounts.  (Besides, what is being taught when even parents use a fake birthdate to get their kid “around” the age rules?)  Really, our kids will have their own electronic leashes soon enough.  There is no right-of-passage back into childhood, so it is probably wise if parents choose to protect it.  Kids have the rest of their lives to live with the “electronic leash,” so there’s no harm in having “tween” years without its yoke!

We are affecting the next generation.

My 13-yr-old and I were discussing “maturity” and what it means, as I look for more symptoms of it in him. At one point, he answered, “It seems that ‘maturity’ means you check your phone more, and are more involved with emails.” He was serious in his observation of those “mature” older brothers and friends around him.

My daughter recently wrote an article for a magazine she created. Her random “creative writing,” had a point that was clear, especially since she (at age ten) is only on the outside of the electronic world, looking in.  Although I cannot say everyone can logistically apply her “one month” program, I thought it a fitting way to end this letter. (See her article, “Family Fun” below.)

Electronically your friend,

Terri

Romans 12:2:And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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Family Fun

By Christine Brady

“Uh…a duck?” said Nate. The whole family laughed. Trivial Pursuit always had us giggling at the funny questions…and answers. Our family takes one month away from phones, iPods and computers. No e-mailing, texting or calling people…just family time. Nowadays, families need more time together…electronics are drawing them apart.

People who are always texting and e-mailing never really stop to look around them- to stare at the pretty clouds or to listen to the birds chirp sweetly.  My older brother got a FaceBook account and for a while, even he was distracted from the beautiful weather! Without phones and iPods, you would really appreciate the world around you.

Family time is very important. We learn to laugh, have fun, and we can forget bad things.  I think our family is the happiest of all when they take a month away from phones, iPods, computers and video games. For instance once I had a HORRIBLE ear infection that lasted from March to July.  July was our Un-plugged month, and I got distracted from my ear infection. Instead of hurting, my ear infection DISAPPEARED!!!! Family time is definitely important.

Families need more time together, and happier memories to look back at. I am encouraging YOU to take a month off electronics, as a test and see what happens. Do you want YOUR family laughing together? Simply take out electronics for a while! Trivial Pursuit is on its way…and so is lot of family fun!