“The Social Dilemma” and a Case for Unplugging

Happy Friday!

Have you seen the documentary “The Social Dilemma”? Whichever generation you belong to – Boomers, X, Y, or Z – there are a few good take-aways this film has to offer.

The point of “The Social Dilemma” is to show the numerous and purposeful manipulations designed to keep us constantly on social media platforms. Notifications top the list in promoting addiction to our devices, plus FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) phenomena, and neural influences on the pleasure part of the brain. Though none are quite as intrusive as emotion detection and content delivery, a patent won by Facebook that serves up content just for you based on reading your emotions while you surf. Eew.

Social media addiction is not one of my problems. But being overly connected with a device I would say is. (Do you think having one stationary desktop computer in the kitchen corner would help?)

Well, since watching the movie last week, I’ve been looking at how devices show up in my day. Here’s what I found: there’s not an hour that goes by without a reason to light up the iPhone/iPad/laptop in order to send/reply to a text, confirm an appointment, consult my calendar, order groceries, transfer money or pay bills, check the time/weather/news, decide on dinner, place an online order, start a timer, find a phone number, or look up a definition or proper spelling. Maybe even make a phone call but more often not.

So, what might all this look like from the eyes of a small onlooker, say my child? A lot of the same. No defining actions to show what’s being done. No visible process or clear endpoint. Any productive work I’m doing is more or less hidden to my kids. To the onlooker, it all more or less looks the same: reading, typing (and possibly falling down the rabbit hole where “it’ll just be a sec” becomes irrelevant; this kids know and why they despise our screens), and disconnection from a real, tangible life.

As a mom of young kids, this is what’s more concerning to me: disconnection from the sensory elements of life. We leave a world of rich input from our senses – smell, touch, hearing, taste, sight, movement, and perception – which are responsible for feeling vital, learning and storing memories, and tethering us to our world.

Arguably, we do use some of our senses – mainly vision and hearing – when we’re on tech but it’s devoid of the variation we find in real life and results in the lost ability to tell what’s artificial and what’s real. (more on this in Richard Louv’s insightful book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit)

Interest in a device is right around the corner for my kids, I’m sure. It’s solidly our world now.

I would regret not giving my kids the chance to savor the aroma of Nescafe Taster’s Choice granules brewing in my Dad’s coffeepot like I did (hey, 70’s coffee, was espresso even a thing back then?), the dry sound of turning a book page, the acidic smell of newspaper print, the sight of my great-grandmother’s shaky hand working her crochet hook, my daughter’s breathy singing, the bite of puppy teeth (ouch), dry leaves rustling in the wind, walking on soft grass, warmth from a fire reaching cold hands, the tickle of dog whiskers….

Spending time outside for any reason resets our physiology and has super healing powers. Getting outside is something our family does well already so I wanted to look at some ways I can swap my device for better alternatives inside the house. (Not going all the way back to Little House on the Prairie but definitely 30 or 40 years on some of these things):

  • Delete social media accounts or at least turn off notifications
  • Subscribe to local and national newspapers for home delivery
  • Install a landline telephone
  • Use cookbooks
  • Wear a watch
  • Keep laptop or tablet in one place all the time
  • Use an oven timer
  • Put a dictionary in reach
  • Check phone/email at a particular time each day (avoid bedtime)
  • Have one day without phones or computers; or a block of time daily with no devices

If you’ve seen the movie, can you add anything to the list?

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What are you doing on election night? And the days and weeks after? Here are great ideas for bringing comfort in the months to come.

A stunning film. Animals are magnificently beautiful.

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