‘Unplugging’ can be beneficial
READER’S QUESTION: My teenager cannot go anywhere without her smart phone. When I ask her to “unplug” she becomes irate and says that “all of her friends can use their devices anytime and anywhere they want.” Am I old-fashioned?
MARIANN’S RESPONSE: Considering our never-ending connection to technology, how did humans avoid extinction previously without a constant stream of information to guarantee survival? Call it “old fashioned,” sensible, or able to maintain good boundaries by limiting a daughter’s technology usage, but I applaud your parenting skills. How I wish more mothers and fathers instilled those same rules.
A few days ago at church, a family was seated in a pew nearby. The teenage daughter never stopped texting or using her smartphone during the entirety of the Sunday service. It is doubtful she benefitted from the minister’s message that day, while the parents seemed oblivious to her inattentiveness. Is it possible this same scenario occurred when she arrived in the classroom that Monday morning?
Two weeks ago, also in church, I made an error by sitting next to a woman who had her smartphone stashed in the hymnal holder directly in front of us. The device flashed incessantly and buzzed with each delivery of a new e-mail, text or missed call. Needless to say, I should have relocated elsewhere. Arriving late, few other seats were available, so I tolerated the “sound and light show” without gaining much from the Sunday sermon due to the ongoing distraction of her phone. Even though a device might be switched to “vibrate,” that does not equate to “silent” or unobtrusive to others.
Unless you are an on-call physician or in the midst of a family emergency (and probably would be absent from church anyway), is it not possible to disconnect for one hour on a Sunday morning, leave your device in the car, and give full attention to something other than technology? These two church incidents are still perplexing to me with each situation having minimal consideration for others in close proximity and the apathy of parents concerning respectful church decorum.
The March 7 edition of USA TODAY featured a front-page story on our American obsession to stay continuously connected to the office and increasing inability as a workforce to disconnect from technology during “off hours.” As cited in the article, with the uncertain stability of anyone’s career, being readily available to an employer 24/7 has become almost the unmentioned expectation.
The newspaper focused on a lawsuit by a Chicago police sergeant. His accessibility to supervisors while off-duty, was without monetary or over-time compensation for the hours he spent answering telephone calls, texts, or e-mails that were work-related, and is the basis for the case. Having just received court designation to become a class-action lawsuit, the case has other Chicago officers now joining as plaintiffs.
USA TODAY also cited that 7-of-10 workers admitted to letting technology impose upon their personal lives during supposed off-hours. Since less than one-fourth of all companies have any specific policy detailing off-hours availability by their employees, this area of work life is without guidelines for what is expected. Just like your daughter’s comment “that everyone else is doing it,” employees are feeling pressure to conform if they know other co-workers are answering the boss’s calls, e-mails or texts at all hours.
Even though many think that technology gives us more free time, that assumption according to USA TODAY is a fallacy. The mobility of devices has led to our ability “to work anywhere at anytime and a collapse of boundaries between work and personal life,” per Rick Segal, worldwide president of gyro, a global ad agency.
Disconnecting from technology while on vacation, at a movie theater, attending a concert, eating a meal, driving or during church, seems sadly almost an impossibility in today’s society. Alienation of family, friends, and others in close proximity can be problematic to human relationships when hand-held technology becomes more important than the people nearby. It is my opinion that potentially divorce rates will continue to climb as technology becomes more invasive, especially when accountability to employers is non-ceasing and uninterrupted “family time” diminishes. It is inevitable that this information overload will take a toll on those we should cherish the most but appreciate the least.
Tonight, instead of rushing home to open your laptop and continue the workday, how about devoting a few uninterrupted hours to your spouse, children or the evening mealtime? The focus on them versus your computer, smartphone, tablet or television might be greatly appreciated and could rekindle true communication and conversation without distractions ruining priceless moments with family, friends or your marriage.
Mariann Main is a Licensed Counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Wednesdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, visit delgazette.com/life-questions-with-local-answers or send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.