Writer/filmmaker Guy Debord once said about technology that it creates the condition of the "isolation of lonely crowds." Never has this been more true than it is today. The latest development in interactive media is "social media." The problem is that the term "social media" is a misnomer. In reality, it isn't social at all.
Let me provide two examples from my recent trip to the airport. While waiting for my flight, I noticed a young mother thumbing a text vigorously into her phone, while her young daughter tugged on her arm and attempted to show her something outside the large window. This went on for several minutes, until the little girl gave up. The mother never even noticed her. At the same time, I watched two teens text messaging one another from opposite ends of the same bench, never communicating verbally.
A recent study by Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that the average American youth spends nearly 11 hours a day immersed in interactive media. Even if exaggerated, doesn't this seem problematic? Here are some ways that my family and I have reduced our reliance on interactive media.
My spouse and I were unhappy with the amount we were paying each month for satellite TV. So, we decided to buy a television antenna instead. It cost only $30, less than one month's bill for satellite TV. I was skeptical that it would work. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had more than a dozen channels. The change saved us money, reduced our television viewing, and freed additional time for the more rewarding experience of reading together.
Children don't seem to be spending nearly as much time outside as they once did. Although there are many factors contributing to this change, one of the major causes is video game addiction. I would recommend parents reduce the time their children spend playing video games. These games, in addition to limiting physical activity, have a negative impact on the way children have fun. Children who play a lot of video games lose the ability to entertain themselves without outside help.
The Internet is an amazing tool for research. Through it, we are able to receive information and connect with people in ways that would never have been possible a few decades ago. Unfortunately, that which can be used for good can also be used for evil. Too often the Internet serves as a gateway to poisons like pornography. Online chat rooms can be hazardous as well, in that they allow (potentially dangerous) people to present themselves in whatever way they want. Likewise, many adults have created problems for themselves and their loved ones by putting too much stock in online relationships, or by allowing husbands or wives to "reconnect" with "old flames". The dangers of the Internet are very real, and everyone in the family should be wary of the hazards of surfing the web. Parents, monitor you children's Internet use, and limit the amount of time they spend online.
Cell phones are difficult to part with because we are used to being able to contact one another in an instant. On the other hand, many of today's cell phones create the same problems that I've addressed above. Cell phones have become portable computers capable of showing television programs, playing video games, and connecting to the Internet. With all of these additional uses, it can become easy to forget that most of these features are completely unnecessary. Can you imagine any sort of emergency where you would need to be able to play "Angry Birds" at a moment's notice? Rather then signing up for expensive monthly contracts with cell phone companies, consider purchasing minutes for you phones. My wife and I have done this, opting to use our phones for emergencies rather than for entertainment, and we have saved hundreds of dollars. The funny thing is, we've found that we almost never even use the minutes that we buy.
In the end, some technology serves unnecessary convenience. Once, we all functioned without it.