When I hear the word unplugged, I picture an extension cord being pulled from a wall socket. Most Sundays I try to replicate this for my kid and myself by prying the smartphone and iPad from our hands and letting them sleep in a drawer in the kitchen while we pretend they are not there. I’ve gotten better at pretending they’re not there than my son. Usually only while camping or in the thick of a real life experience does he truly let go of wanting to Zoom with a friend while playing a video game or watching shows or grabbing my phone to take an urgent picture of the cats.
Nostalgic for the Years I Went Out to Play
See, I remember what it was like to be a kid without devices. Sure, I had walkie talkies, a cassette player, and a home phone but that was different. I’ve spent more of my adult life trying to find time off tech than I’ve enjoyed life on tech. The disconnect here is crucial. While we are on our devices, we are taking time out of living life to report about living life or read about life lived.
Growing Up Wired
According to Alex Orlando who wrote the Discover article Kids Are Growing Up Wired–and That’s Changing Their Brains, “In just one generation, childhood went digital. Even before they can say the words, “Hey, Siri,” kids are awash in smartphones, tablets and a torrent of interactive content.” In the article, Alex points to one study drawing the connection to kids who are on devices are usually with parents who are on devices.
How many hours do typical Americans spend on our devices? According to a 2019 study recorded by Vox, three and a half. Since the pandemic, this has exponentially increased. According to a March Washington Post article, “In the midst of the coronavirus, when many people are stuck at home, these reports have become a badge of shame — or honor, depending on your point of view.” This is dependent on class and location but more and more devices of varying kinds are available.
Time plugged in feels squeezed with urgency. There will never be enough time to consistently keep your email box at zero. There will never be enough time or do the 5 simple tips for well being.
The Impact of Screens
It’s old news that screen time increases our feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression and yet we keep doing it. I am thinking about this urgently. As a freelance writer who just signed on to work full time (more than full time) for a PR company that is all about social media persuasion and getting people to read articles that get to the heart of a client’s story, I am on the computer long enough for it to vacuum up most of my day.
Unwinding in the Woods
Now more than ever it feels important for me to preserve some scrap of childhood that’s unplugged. In the woods my child and I are able to unpack the information overload of toggling from one screened activity to another. In one of our go to spots we often take off our sandals and walk barefoot across a fallen tree trunk, balanced above a creek. There we find rocks shaped like fish and thorned wine berry vines that cling at our clothes. At the Frog Pond I let my kid wade into the muck, green algae leaves cling to his calves as he squats down palms ready to encompass a frog. His hands will open again, patient, ready to receive the natural world.