Better Living Through Lack of Technology

Jennifer Dennard  @JennDennard
January 20, 2016  | Last Updated: January 19, 2016

I finally got around to upgrading my phone the other day – a task I’d had on my to-do list for several weeks but could never find the time to accomplish. I think I was secretly apprehensive about parting ways with my relic of a smartphone. Would my contacts and photos transfer to the new device? Would the updated operating system be free of bugs? It’s these type of first-world questions that kept me from taking the leap. While I’m by no means a Luddite, I am definitely not an early technology adopter. I prefer to let the tech geeks camp out in front of the Apple store so that I don’t have to.


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The few smartphones I’ve had have tended to be at least two generations behind the latest and greatest on the market, mainly due to my penchant for preferring to spend as little as possible on an electronic device that I know will be obsolete in at least two years, if not sooner. This latest upgrade, however, was different. I opted to buy a new device with the most storage available. Now I can Periscope! Now I can SnapChat (although the app’s user demographics make me think I might be too old to use it)!

Once I got the new phone home, charged it up, and made sure everything had transferred over successfully, I put it down, relegating it to the utility it has always been. My kids, on the other hand, see my new phone as so much more. To them, it’s not even really a phone, but rather a multimedia communications device that can fit in their pocket – if only I’d let them use it. My youngest even attempted to play with it while we were on a fall hayride. I swatted her hand away and explained that we were there to experience the beautiful weather and scenery, not to become zombified by the technology in my purse.

My husband and I walk a fine line with our children and technology. We allow them (on a good parenting day) a limited amount of time on our tablet, which can sometimes be tough to adhere to since it also happens to be our main means of entertainment. (We opted out of the cable TV scheme years ago.)

Rarely, if ever, do I think to limit my own utilization. I’m willing to bet most adults don’t, either. My phone is my go-to distraction – something to look at mindlessly when I’m waiting in line or need to pretend I’m busier than I actually am. (Don’t judge – you’ve done it, too!) My daughter’s predilection for picking up a screen made me think, “Have I become just as addicted as I’m trying to prevent my children from being?”

Research shows that the average U.S. adult between 25 and 54 spends about 4.7 hours a day on their mobile phone – a staggering amount of time given that the same adult is only awake for about 15 hours each day. Yes, I’m sure some of that time is spent productively, but how much of it could be better utilized via interaction with the environment around you? There’s an amazing world of potential friendships, inspiration, creativity, and even relaxation on the other side of our screens.

I’ve heard of people taking digital media sabbaticals – giving up social networking for a weekend, or their iPads for a certain amount of time. It sounds like a great idea – one that that I should probably try. In the meantime, I can at least attempt to stow the phone in the glove compartment while driving, leave it in another room during dinner, turn it off at night (yes, it’s also my alarm clock), and leave it in my purse while out with friends. Even stashing it in my back pocket makes me that much more inclined to glance at it every few minutes. If anything, I need to show my kids that the mini-computer in my purse should never become attached to my hip (and that the camera function isn’t there for endless selfie-taking).

Now, if I could just find an app that helps me locate my phone at the bottom of my cluttered purse.

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