|Martin Voltri, Flickr
When I bought my car, the sales consultant spent as much time (if not more time) explaining how to set up and use Bluetooth than he did explaining the "traditional" car characteristics.
He never mentioned anything about cylinders, torque and horsepower. I'll give it to him that he did not point out which mirror I could use to refresh my makeup either.
But I now know how to call my mother hands-free while driving, by just saying her name out loud (he helped me set that up, arguing it could come in handy). I don't even have to touch my flip phone to be in immediate communication with whoever I want. How convenient! (And how dangerous, according to recent studies that show talking on the phone, even hands-free, increases your risk of an accident.) Never mind that I do not make phone calls from my car, and that I only use said flip phone for emergencies (i.e., almost never).
More and more people are expressing astonishment at the fact that I don't own a smart phone. Admittedly, everyone but the kitchen table owns one, so I guess I'm the weirdo. Still, I can't help but wonder: How could an inessential gadget become mainstream so fast? Ten years ago, smart phones were few and far between in North America. Now they are everywhere. I understand how such a phenomenon could apply to, say, washing machines: they did make a huge difference for the better in the life of the North American homemaker when they were first put on the market. But smart phones? Are they that useful?
Despite being a big fan of technology, a daily user (arguably an excessive user) of the Internet, and an "ex-video gamer", I haven't hopped on the portable device bandwagon yet, and I don't know when or if I will. Up to now, the main pressure to get a smart phone has come from friends who tell me I need one, not from me actually feeling the need.
Not having a smart phone "forces" me to call people or write them an email instead of texting them. Not having a smart phone forces me to check directions before I leave on a trip, and to carry a road map in my car (I don't have a GPS either). Interestingly, I enjoy reading maps, and it has never caused any issue. The same applies to calculators: since I do not carry one with me, I have the pleasure of doing mental math on a regular basis, which is probably good for my almost 40-year-old brain. Other than that I don't see what not having a smart phone changes in my life.
But wait! Here is what it changes:
- When I'm with my friends or with my family, I actually focus on them, as opposed to looking down at a screen or jumping whenever I hear a buzz.
- When I drive I am not distracted.
- When I have to wait somewhere, I get lost in my thoughts, which often prove to be rather creative provided I allow them to go in whatever direction they want to take. Or, if the scenery is nice, I get lost in its beauty reaching my five senses.
- When on vacation I completely "disconnect" from the rest of the world.
- I never feel distressed about forgetting or losing my phone.
- I don't contribute to polluting the environment with one of the worst "planned-obsolescence-infused" items there is.
Think I'm a freak? Wait, I haven't even told you that I don't own a tablet or another portable device either (except a dinosaur of a laptop that I only use very occasionally). Nor do my children, by the way. Which means that, poor them, they have to find another way to occupy themselves whenever
- We go on long drives
- We go to a restaurant
- We watch their sibling play sports
- We go to the dentist's, the doctor's, or any other specialist's office
- We go camping
- They are at a friend's house
- We are home, doing nothing
- I need to get some work done without their constant interruptions
What do they do then? Honestly, I don't care as long as they remain safe and respectful of their surroundings. Sometimes they read. Sometimes they write. Sometimes they draw. Sometimes they build things. Sometimes they listen to music. Sometimes (if the space and setting allows for it) they move around, dance, run, jump, climb, throw balls, do cartwheels. Sometimes they find a friend and/or a game to play with. Sometimes they just stare in the distance, and I know for a fact that some of their most fascinating reflections on life and the world are taking place at that exact moment.
Sometimes they chat with me. How sad would it be if there was a screen between us (literally) during those moments.
Whenever I advocate for minimal use of portable electronic devices for children (and I wouldn't be the only one, since specialists everywhere are saying the same), I am often told that "children need to know how to use them". May I reassure everyone that children do NOT need to spend 10+ hours a week in front of a screen to learn how to use it? With their occasional witnessing or use of other people's games electronic devices, my children already know more than enough about "the new technologies". Plus, schools themselves are increasingly incorporating iPads and such in the classroom. It suffices.
May I also reassure everyone that children ARE capable of waiting, occupying themselves and remaining well-behaved without the help of a screen? The fact that "times are changing" doesn't mean all of our ways have to. I strongly believe that my children actually benefit from being bored/having to wait on a regular basis, as I might have mentioned once or twice on this blog already. And don't tell me it's because my kids are angels: they are not. As I write this I just had to kick them out of the house ("Go play outdoors!") because they were becoming too rambunctious.
Children are very adaptable creatures (with the possible exception of two year-olds, who can be quite inflexible - but screens are even worst for toddlers, so we'll have to suck it up like every other parent has since the dawn of time). Let's trust that if they don't have access to screens every time things get boring or uncomfortable, they will figure out a way to deal with it.
How do you manage portable electronic devices in your life? Do you feel they bring you more than they take away from you?
WEEK 43 IN REVIEW
I haven't used my new car to go to work yet. It sits there but I will only use it when it's a need. I have, however, used it to go to the library with the kids on the recent PD day, while D was gone with the other car. We live in the woods and other means of transportation are rarely an option as there pretty much is nothing (except for schools) in the area.
A salesperson showed up at my door trying to sell me an Internet/TV/phone bundle. We already have a service provider and are happy with it, but the young man wouldn't take "I'm not interested" for an answer, and argued that I had to give him a reason why. He seemed personally offended that I wouldn't listen to his sales pitch, even if I told him very politely that I didn't want to waste his or my precious time. By the time he said "I can come back if you're busy right now", I couldn't help but respond "Please don't". The whole interaction was uncomfortable for both of us. He wanted my money, I was not gonna give it to him. Why not stop there? Why does it have to turn into harassment? Why is this practice deemed acceptable in the world of door-to-door (or telephone) selling? As with physical encounters: no means no. Period.
Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...
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