Friday, January 25, 2013

Unplugged

This is difficult for me to admit, but sometime in the last few years I got lost. Somewhere along this crazy journey of marriage and motherhood I stopped really living. It was gradual, I think... maybe beginning with reading the news. I became so wrapped up in what was happening in the world, convinced that if I missed something I was somehow responsible for history repeating itself or the collapse of our Nation’s government. I poured over online articles in the name of education and patriotic duty. Then came the television. When we moved to Southern Utah it was impossible to get TV unless you paid for the service. This was a whole new world for me. Nights that used to be spent talking with my husband and laughing with my kids slowly became nights catching up with my DVR. But possibly the most useful and devastating was Facebook. I re-entered the facebook world a few years ago. I told myself that the ONLY way to stay connected with my friends and family was by “friending” them. And although my friend count pales in comparison to many a high school student, keeping up with 300 plus people is completely overwhelming. And don’t even get me started on the feelings of “purpose” and inadequacy that Pinterest brings to the table.

My point is this: I became so preoccupied staying up to date with everyone else in this world that I stopped connecting with the people living in my own home. Sadly, my kids became the distraction and not the other way around. I realized that the majority of our family time was sitting in the same room in front of different screens. We began to eat meals together less often and when we did it was rarely without someone being on their phone. We started staying up ridiculously late watching TV or posting to Facebook. Both my 4 year old and my 1 year old learned how to unlock my iPhone and watch cartoons, and even while driving my oldest can’t go longer than a few minutes without asking to watch a movie on the DVD player. We simply stopped living.

I have been pondering this remarkable change for the past few months and I have come up with some tragic lessons that the world has taught me:
  1. If it’s not on facebook, it didn’t really happen.
  2. If you don’t reach a certain number of likes or comments on your status updates, you are not good enough.
  3. Pinning is as good as doing.
  4. A picture cannot be considered a memory unless it has an instagram filter applied to it.
  5. Hashtags make words important.
  6. No one likes those people who only check social media a few times a week because they are “impossible” to get ahold of.
  7. Whether it is checking your facebook while watching TV, or texting while listening to your spouse, multitasking is an essential life skill.
  8. We should be grateful to live in a world where our children can be so easily occupied.
I learned these lessons from the world. But my children are learning these lessons from me. The other day I was taking a picture of my four year old and he asked, “Did you post it yet?” I stopped and realized that in his mind his life is documented and shared instantly. What kind of pressure does that put on a kid? Will he soon begin to believe that if I don’t post something it’s not meaningful or worthy of praise?

I have been in denial about this problem for a long time. I have excused myself, accepting that we live in a different world now. Everybody lives this way. But then I heard a voice--Tom Hanks’ voice actually. I was flipping mindlessly through the hundreds of channels that Dish Network streams into my living room and suddenly he appeared on my screen--Joe Fox typing an email to Shopgirl. His voice started narrating the message as he asked her, “Do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself?”

Without even realizing it, I answered “Yes.”

That was it. Now most of you are hopefully jumping to my defense in your minds right now, about to comment with flowery compliments and inspirational quotes. Save yourself the time though. I don’t think I’m a horrible person. I just finally have to be honest with myself. All the years of feeling like I had hit rock bottom, then seeming to find a jackhammer and make a basement for rock bottom... those moments were my fault. I had done it to myself by making everything else more important than what really matters: my family, my faith, and myself. Nothing that I know about, say to, or do for others will matter much if those three things fall apart.

So here’s the drastic plan. Effective in one week I am:
  • Canceling our current internet provider and switching to a mobile plan that Joe can carry with him for work. I will no longer have internet during the day.
  • Canceling our television service.
  • Selling my iPhone and replacing it with a “dumb” phone.
  • Shutting down my facebook account. (For posterity’s sake I will finally be updating my blog again... obviously less often since I won’t always have internet.)
Joe and I had a long talk about this and we are both excited. I’m relieved mostly. I already feel that the pressure is gone. My life is enough.

(I’ll let you know how it goes... if I find the time.)

9 comments:

allybench said...

Thanks for being such a brave example. I have cancelled and restarted my Facebook so many times, the only reason I restarted it was to put my blog address up. and I am with you on it not being necessary. I also went back to a "dumb phone." several months ago. I asked Blake just yesterday to take our tv off of the fireplace mantle because it was such a distraction during mealtimes. I have also said that as soon as football is over. cable is done. Fee or not. I'm with you. If you ever feel like it's too hard, call me. we can commiserate together and have a real person to person conversation!

The Meffords said...

I think this is fantastic! If I wasnt in school I would go without internet too. Ive been sucked into the techno world as well. I will miss your allergy info on my posts, but I totally know where you are coming from. There isnt an app for a happy home and family! Keep us posted on your blog!

Sharlee said...

I completely agree with you. It can suck people in. I was late to the bandwagon of SMARTphones and we only have Netflix which Zach and I watch together at night. It's strange but I just felt that without cable/"live" television, we'd be able to make our house a home more and I am more convinced every day that it was a good decision. I gave up Facebook over a year ago and couldn't be happier. We never take our phones out on dates or when we're together, not even in the car. I think everyone has their reasons that technology is bad for them. For me, it wasn't so much to show off what I was doing (Facebook/such) but rather I was always comparing myself to everyone else and the drama. But as soon as I walked away from it a weight lifted. I know that if I want new blog readers, I could set up an account and network, but I just can't bring myself to do it. I'd rather have 11 followers and the peace that comes from being unplugged more often than being plugged in. Pinterest/blogging are my biggest weaknesses and I see it getting worse with Zach's new schedule. I have more time alone now and so I spend a lot A LOT of that time on the internet. I loved what you said about your family becoming a distraction instead of the other way around. That statement hit me hard. It's time for me to reevaluate my priorities also. Thanks for this post! I think it will serve as an inspiration/reminder to many.

CassieBurton said...

I think that you blog would actually connect on some if not many levels with each and every person that reads it. Lonny and I have restricted amounts of internet, no tv, and netflix to watch movies with the kids but with our restricted internet it allows 1 show or movie a day and we're pushing the limits. I rarely use a phone but Lonny's work phone is constantly going... and the internet is a big problem without all the other interferences. I think it takes a great deal to step back and actually look at your life the way you have and make a change as drastic as it sounds it is. I hope you enjoy those moments laughing or playing a board game and meals around the table. Since you are making this change I am sure you know those are the most important moments. The ones we remember are the ones between the internet use.... so why not make a million more that you would have missed out on while your little ones are young. Thank you for this post... I really enjoyed reading it and I hope to read more!

Melissa said...

oh my god I just found your blog, and as I read this post I wanted to hit the Like button to agree with you. I guess, me too! too much internet, not enough life! Thank you for posting this!

rachel garber said...

I think this is so great and brave. I haven't had tv in . . . five years? Yeah. And I don't have hulu or netflix now that my internet is satellite and really slow for streaming (I live out in the country). I also don't know what a hashtag is, what instagram is or how to pin because I knew if I started, I'd never stop. I gave up Facebook almost three years ago. BUT I love blogs and they suck a lot of time from my life. I also have a smartphone (I was late to join but now I can't give it up) and with my husband working days and me full-time at school at night, the internet and I are friends. It hit home when you said you had to check the news like it was your patriotic duty. I have a problem.

kenpochick said...

I love this Stacy & I'm proud of you. Good luck in this new adventure!

Shannon said...

Hey you. You're awesome, you know that? Thank you for sharing what you are learning. And for being my ever-constant friend/sorella. Ci sentiamo presto. Love you.

Emerald said...

Wow! You have learned so much very early in life. Good Girl.
We are both retired and have found with 'online' we can peruse, share, shop, buy, plan, compare for HOURS! and just by sitting in our recliners in front of the continuously turned on tv. We can fall asleep with hand on mouse, eat left-handed (both being right-handed), delay; doing laundry (not like we have to use a washboard in the river) meals (have to use both hands to use the microwave), going to the restroom (and we have indoor plumbing). This is just getting ridiculous!
And all while we need exercise, have household projects that need started/finished/filed/stored/organized, etc...
It's like we are finger walking thru the lives of others while waiting to die in ours.
Conclusion? it took me reading a young woman's entry on her blog to see myself/ourselves.
Thank you so very much for being open and humble and soft-hearted and strong willed. You will never know how many have been helped by your honesty. You have my admiration and will pray for you and yours many of God's blessings.