Self-Imposed Media Technology Interventions: Learning Moderation

It seems like technology has been getting a bit of a bad rap lately. We’ve all been there, out to dinner with friends, excited to catch up on the aspects of their lives we didn’t already read about on Facebook earlier, only to sit in complete and total silence. Even if you manage to keep yours in your purse, everyone else’s phones are competing with the fork and knife for proximity to their hand, quick but frequent checks to make sure they haven’t missed a text, email, or Facebook notification. Even worse yet are the dinners where everyone ignores the real, live human beings across from, next to, all around them, in favor of an intimate face-to-face with their blackberry. They occasionally nod or give an “uh huh,” perhaps even glance up or take a bite of food occasionally, but most of the meal is spent with heads down and fingers flying as they check-in to the restaurant, photograph and post their meal, text their cousin, mother, boyfriend, sister, boss, whoever, and check their email.

In these situations, I cannot say that I disagree with the bad rap; I would really like some face time with my friends and family – not FaceTime, actual face-to-face interaction and conversation. On the bright side, my irritation over this made me hyper aware of my own usage, which has had positive results on the attention I give to people I am actually in the same room as. In other words, I gave myself a personal technology intervention and started leaving my phone in my purse set to vibrate. What’s more, when alone, I have recently begun using the phone to actually speak to people instead of just texting them. The result: my relationships are flourishing, as they are finally receiving the attention they deserve. Now I just have to figure out how to hide/destroy/distract the phones out of my dinner companions’ hands…

Besides that, I still have some work to do on my computer usage. I suffer from the time warp that is the World Wide Web. I get home from the gym every day at noon, shower, eat lunch, and sit down for what is supposed to be a quick email and Facebook check only to discover that my 2:45 phone alarm is going off and it’s time to pick my son up from school. I wish I could say something productive occurs during this time, but for whatever reason, productive computer usage only seems to occur in the morning or evening. Afternoons are, apparently, for the mindless nonsense that is Facebook, online shopping, entertainment news, photo browsing, I don’t even know what else. I always have the best intentions, and the days that I skip from shower and lunch to something , anything other than going right to the computer, those days are so much more productive and fulfilling.

My Mom called me the other day and asked if I was alright, that I hadn’t posted to Facebook in 21 hours, and was I ok. Henceforth began my second (ok, third, I canceled cable so that I would spend less time watching TV, and though I still watch it on my computer – thank you technology convergence – it is far less than I used to watch because it isn’t nearly as convenient) personal technology intervention, which has involved avoiding the computer as much as possible until after dinner. It’s been quite successful, as long as the sun is shining. Which meant that this week, thanks to Hurricane Isaac, the Internet time warp resurfaced with a vengeance; new idea: break out old, annoying kitchen timer, set it to 10 minutes, place it across the room from the computer. We’ll see how it goes.

I think we need to view our technology usage pretty much like our doctor’s tell us to use everything else, food, alcohol, etc.; the key is moderation. I’m willing to give it a try, at least as far as the TV, Internet and cell phone. However, try to take my Kindle away and we’re going to have a problem.

I’ve been carrying around books in my purse since I was in elementary school, reading every chance I got. After having kids, there wasn’t really much room in my purse for a 300+ page book on top of the diapers, wet wipes, blankets, snacks, toys, etc., nor was there the time or energy to read anything more than the instruction on how to build the baby swing, and even then, I mostly just looked at the picture. My Kindle purchase has actually rekindled (haha) my love and devotion to the written word. It has given me a positive outlet for my media consumption needs. Reading is a definite step up from watching television or mindlessly browsing the Internet, and I am back up to reading a book a week or more. Add to that the textbook capability, and I can even study a bit while slaving away on the stair stepper at the gym. As long as I don’t take to reading it in the middle of dinner, I think I’m ok.

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