As I prepare for Spring Break, it is the perfect time to think about “unplugging,” which is this week’s Reflective Writing Prompt.
Growing up, I was an untethered, solar charged being whose life naturally involved the outdoors, as I lived and worked on a farm close to the shore of Lake Huron. When I wasn’t outside, I was at the local library, enjoying the air-conditioning, the silence, and most of all, the books. My only connections to the communication network were the rotatory dial phone in our family’s kitchen and the five television channels the antenna picked up.
Now, I have multiple social media and email accounts, online courses, cable TV, Amazon Prime, a smartphone, an iPad, and two computers. I also, though, thanks to the presence of my children, have a strict screen schedule. The New York Times recently published an editorial claiming that the real digital divide is now between children who do and do not have regulated screen time use. My children have restricted and specific screen time usage; therefore, I have restricted and specific screen time usage as well.
In my composition I classes, I have my students take a 24-hour media blackout challenge, in preparation for a reflective essay on their relationship with technology. Each semester, I take the challenge as well. One the whole, we finds the days seem to last much longer and we are able to accomplish more without the presence of media. When it comes to psychological effects, students usually fall into two camps: those who feel intense anxiety and those who feel more relaxed without their smartphones. The most important discovery, though, is how ingrained media/network technology has become in our lives. I do not know how to plan and prepare a dinner without the Internet 🙂 It’s a great experiential learning experiment and self check.