The Winter of Our Disconnect

Some husbands bring their wives flowers home. Mine brings me home books from the library that he thinks I would like*. They’re usually brand new titles, so they’re nice and shiny, and clean**. Who needs flowers anyway?***

This book however, held a two-fold purpose. Not only was it a book that I thought “Ooh!”, but it was also a gentle reminder that perhaps I was spending too much time with my precious the PC. I read the book and took the hint.

The Winter of our Disconnect is the story of Susan Maushart, an American-born, Perth-based journalist who spends 6 months unplugged from her iPod, iPhone, laptop, email, andTV, and takes her 3 teenage children (14, 15 and 18) along for the ride. All live to tell the tale.

Her nationality is a factor to this, as much of her inspiration for this decision is inspired by American writer Henry Thoreau’s Walden in which he spent 2 years living a life of self-sufficiency in the 19th century.

Friend’s reactions veered between support to horror at curtailing the children’s access to the internet- what about homework (It got done either at school or at friend’s houses, or at home)? was one question asked.

The results were surprising and acted as the springboard for much discussion of a huge range of statistics Maushart was able to accumulate to detail how technology impacts everything we do- eating, sleeping, relationships, leisure work and managing our time. She did have 6 months to kill, after all.

Her eldest daughter began to cook meals, go shopping with her, and hold meaningful conversations with her. Her 15 year old son swapped his addiction to gaming to practising his saxophone up to 4 hours a day, and discovering a love of reading beyond Harry Potter.

Her youngest daughter flitted in and out of the house, staying with her father, used her friends to check facebook, mySpace and Google and rack up a $1123 phone bill (ouch!). She also began to sleep better, her grades improved and her teachers noticed a marked improvement in her focus at school.

The family rediscovered each other and began to talk more, enjoying reading papers together in bed on a Sunday, meal times and playing board games.

The chapters focussed on different aspects of technology- social media (facebook), iphone (Wishart actually named her iPhone iNez and her laptop was Della), television, multitasking, how technology impacts on eating sleeping, and relationships and how technology is blurring the distinction between work/home through constant access to information and email. It has been noted that the chapters were quite long, and I do feel that the streams of statistics could have been edited. What I liked was the personal journeys of the family, and how each of them coped with the Experiment.

It also gave me a great deal to think about how I use technology. I don’t name my phone or PC (well, it’s called Big Red on our home network), but I know I spend more time on it than I should. I have used it as an escape from real life, and while it has given me a great deal of opportunity to reconnect with old friends, meet new people, it still takes time away from my nearest and dearest. I prefer F to F than IM, SMS or FB!

I don’t watch a lot of TV (a broken antenna  two years ago  which took us 2 weeks to fix weaned Mr BG and I off the telly), but the kids do. This afternoon the telly was turned off, as was the PC. The kids painted, put on a puppet show and I cooked up enough food to last us the next two days.

I’m not promising anything, but I’m thinking less time online is more beneficial for everyone.

*There is a history to this. Before we started going out, he used to send me books on Duran Duran in our inter-branmch delivery service because he knew I liked them. He however never added a note as to who sent them, so I had no idea who my mysterious benefactor was. Had he done so, something may have ended up happening sooner rather than later…anyway I’m digressing…

**I’m just reminded of a borrower whom Ms S had the misfortune to deal with, who was insistent that books read previously by other people were infected with AIDS. The mind boggles.

***Actually flowers would be nice occasionally, but you run the risk of being questioned as to why are you bringing me flowers? What’s wrong? What’s happened?

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