Our Internet Free Week – The Result
It was a long time coming when I decided last week to unplug my family from our various forms of electronic entertainment – TV, Internet, video games (XBOX, Wii, 3DS). It was an experiment born from frustration, and you’ll be interested to know that it was mostly successful. I say mostly because of me, not the boys. It was necessary for me to check my e-mail and to respond to one urgent request. I also had one superfluous IM chat on Friday. But, apart from those small failures on my part, the boys and I were completely Internet and video game free. You might ask “Well, what did you do for entertainment instead of the typical?” Here’s a list of the things we did which I doubt would have happened otherwise:
Read Some Books: None of us actually finished our books that we started last Monday, but we all came close (I was sick with gastroenteritis. Otherwise I would have finished). Alan read Hoot, Neil read Rafa, and I read The Selfish Gene (photo left)
Took Some Walks: We walked the dog 2 miles twice per day all week (28 miles). Without the Internet unplugged, I estimate the dog would have been given about 50% of that. Oh, and I lost 2 pounds which I attribute to more time outside. That’s a bonus which I didn’t expect.
Played Some Tennis: We play tennis every day anyway, but this week we did more. I can’t put a finger on exactly how much Neil improved, but where I thought we were dedicated before, I can see now that we can always do more.
But Most Importantly: Lots of Time to Talk!
The biggest difference in our family this week is that we talked to each other. Yes, of course families talk to each other. But, when it’s winter and being outside is hard and there aren’t annoying distractions inside, spending time together means lots of talking. It’s hard to quantify what we learned about each other this week, but imagine yourself sitting around your fireplace making up things to talk about instead of mindlessly watching the flickering images on the TV. Think of one random thing right now that you would tell your kid if he was a captive audience. Now think about the time you make available when you aren’t on the Internet to simply listen to what your kids have to say. They learned more about me, and I learned more about them. It might seem obvious that more time talking leads to stronger understanding and togetherness, but I think we all might be surprised by how much, with certain kinds of distractions, we fail to connect with the people with whom we ought to be closest.
The Hidden Bonus: No News!
I didn’t read or listen to a single news story last week. I didn’t hear anything about the Republican Primaries, Obama, missing persons, natural disasters – nothing. I found out, now that I’m back, that I didn’t miss much and that, anyway, I don’t care about the things that I could have known. It’s not good to be ignorant, for sure, but not wasting time reading about politics, and the opinions concerning the issues that others think I should be for or against, was relieving for a time. There is a difference, on the one hand, between educating oneself about the facts of an issue and making a personal judgment, and submitting to meaningless, time wasting opinions on the other. In other words my own opinion is good enough. I really don’t need a talking head telling me what to think.
Going Forward From Here:
The boys are happy to have their video games back, and I’m happy to be able to find out what’s going on in the world, but we all found out that a little less of a good thing makes space for other, sometimes better, things. The boys complained the first day about not having games and TV, but they recovered amazingly fast. By day two a random observer wouldn’t have been able to guess that the boys are actually technophiles, rooted and completely versed in their devices. This tells me that my kids, when removed from these modern devices, are indistinguishable from myself at their age, my dad at their age or their grandpa at that age. Kids are kids. Isn’t that reassuring?