Maybe you’ve experienced this: “I’m just going to check my email.” “I’m just going to pop online for a few minutes.” “This will just take a sec.” And then BAM! Forty-five minutes or two hours later, the dishes are still not done, the toys are still strewn around the house, the menu is still unplanned. And it’s late and you need to get sleep because your kids will be waking up at the same time no matter how unproductive you’ve been.
I’ve written before about my love/hate relationship with the internet, and I’ve also written about the real positivity social media can bring about. But no matter what amazing things you’re accomplishing online, it’s not positive if it’s taking away from your ability to function in your non-internet life.
Two weeks ago, Mishpacha had a thought-provoking feature on the “hidden costs” of living this wired life that we do. Even for those of us who keep Shabbos (and benefit from 25 hours of being totally free of all electronic communications and demands), there is a real challenge to not let all the texting, emailing and online browsing adversely affect our lives.
Basically, all this “connectedness” is costing us real satisfaction, deep friendships, bonding with family, attention span (quick, how many tabs do you have open right now?), communication skills, self-development, and the ability to just be quiet and reflect.
But those things aren’t so important, right? Certainly not as important as reading that Very Interesting Article your friend just linked to.
I have good weeks and less good weeks when it comes to the internet. I can tell when I’m having a less good week because it clouds all of my interactions with my family. I just want to go to the screen. The screen is so interesting! It has lolz! It has interesting articles! It has delicious and healthy recipes!
What happens if a child wants my attention while I’m entranced by the screen? I notice a subtle tinge of annoyance or impatience in my responses to them. “In just a minute,” I might say. And I’ll spend time with them, sure. Of course. They’re very cute. But on weeks when I’m more online than not, I’m kind of antsy when I’m playing on the floor with them. It’s like there’s this little voice saying, can I get back to doing something interesting already?
Because the internet is more interesting than my children?
That is obviously so wrong, but I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this. All you have to do is go to any children’s museum, zoo or playground and take a look around at how many parents are looking at their kids, and how many parents are looking at their phone. We are all losing this battle.
Since so many of us are struggling with this, I thought that we could all help each other out. If you follow my blog’s Facebook page, you may have spotted a couple of posts where I use the hashtag #insteadoftheinternet. The idea is to take a moment of downtime where our reflex is to pop online for “just a minute” and to not go online, but do something else instead. And then, to encourage each other, you could post about it online (ironic, I’m aware).
If you want to use the hashtag #insteadoftheinternet, great. If not, great. The point is to remind each other that we can actively choose to not go online. We don’t have to be slaves to habit. We can be present in our lives. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Maybe start with five to ten minutes a day. Set a timer, if that’s helpful.
Or here’s a list of possible things that you could do (I’d love for you to share some more ideas in the comments, please!):
- Take a short walk
- Do some dishes (less exciting, I know)
- Put some laundry away
- Cultivate a talent
- Play with your kids
- Call your mother (or mother-in-law)
- Write a note for your significant other
- Talk to your significant other
- Sweep the floor
- Prep for dinner
- Make a shopping list
- Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
- Say Tehillim
- Read a magazine
On a related note (oh, bad pun, unintentional), as a result of our discussion about whether or not a mommy can develop her talents while in the parenting trenches, I wrote this article for Kveller on how I’m not going to stop playing music just because I’m so busy with
the internet my kids. If you have a chance, pop over and let me know what you think. Or, maybe don’t pop over right now, but go do something else instead and let me know what you chose to do #insteadoftheinternet.