technology addictionLike many kids growing up in the sixties and seventies, our family had a set of encyclopedias. There were twenty volumes, with two bonus books, all covered in dark green leather. I loved the smell of these books as much as I loved flipping the pages to a world of knowledge. My finger would trail from one amazing entry to another and before I knew it, an hour would have passed. Although much has changed since I was writing school reports with the aid of encyclopedias, one thing remains the same — I get caught up in learning. Now, instead of going to an encyclopedia, all I do is sit down to Google. Just like before, time passes all too quickly. There comes a point when I have to remind myself to unplug.

As I see it, encyclopedias offer two significant benefits over the internet. Firstly, we never questioned the accuracy of anything we read because we knew it had been researched and validated. Encyclopedias were, as they say today, a trusted source. Trusting the validity of anything I find through Google… well, that’s another story. Which is why schools have a variety of resources (via the internet) enabling students to check the trustworthiness of their sources. A shortcut is to look for urls ending in .edu or .gov, but sometimes not even those sites pass the test.

The second benefit encyclopedias have over the internet is that a limit to the information presented. Back in the day, seeing encyclopedias on the book shelf was something to be proud of. They represented a limited collection of world knowledge at one’s fingertips; enough information to be knowledgeable but not enough to be a subject matter expert on every entry. Today, fingertip knowledge is portable. Anyone with an smart phone can connect to an infinite world of information. Anyone can learn enough to come off as a subject matter expert.

It’s incredible to consider how information access has impacted our culture. In our house, hubby watches television with an iPad in his lap. He looks up where movies were filmed, compares the stats of athletes, and provides detailed information about any person, place, or thing for which we find ourselves uninformed. When I sat with an encyclopedia in my lap, I would close the book when I’d had enough. With the internet, I find it much more difficult to close the laptop. My head swims with information overload but still, my fingers type the next entry, searching for more, validating the resource, questioning how I ever managed to live without instant access to anything I ever wanted to know. Which is why making time to unplug is so important. Easier said than done.

Easy (Not) Ways to Unplug Your Family

We all know how difficult it is to disconnect. Have you ever noticed that when one person pulls out their phone to check for texts, emails, etc, that everyone else has to do it too? We are culturally addicted to technology which means we find it almost impossible to disconnect.

Here are three ways I encourage my family to unplug from technology and plug into what’s going on around them:

1) Make a rule for no devices when eating and discount the saying that rules are made to be broken. In my house the “no device when eating” rule is challenged almost daily; even hubby has to be reminded. Still, this is a great way to step away from technology and it certainly makes the dinner conversation more enjoyable.

2) Look for entertainment venues that make devices impractical or unnecessary. Enjoying any water sport eliminates the practicality of electronics. Other outside activities, such a walk in a park or garden, offers the perfect opportunity for stepping away from a constant connection to information and stepping into a quality conversation and connection with nature.

3) Even inside venues can become good reasons to disconnect. Museums, libraries, and theaters offer great escapes (and the perfect excuse) to turn the outside world off and focus instead on what’s right in front of you.

What ways do you help your family disconnect?

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Other articles on information access:

From Neutron Stars to Military Aircraft: Author Relishes Distraction

Social Media: A Love Trap


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