Bucks County Herald

Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

The Device Diet

Chatterbox has talked about cell phones, for different reasons, several times.

I’ve had one since they weighed 4 pounds and came with a retractable antenna. Progress has made them smaller, lighter, multi-functional, mightily ubiquitous and, unintentionally, a huge intrusion.

As if distracted driving isn’t crime enough, we see youngsters with them while riding bikes or skateboards. They’ve also resulted in what we’ve dubbed, “pedtextrians” – people who text while walking. Pedtextrians are getting hit with cars, falling down steps and off curbs and, believe it or not, commonly struck by doors as people exit buildings. We can bet some of the people exiting those buildings are also on their phone.

Recently, I realized that I was spending increased time reading my phone. Sure, reading is a great thing, but it can be overdone even if one is reading news or history. I believed I was keeping my finger on the nation’s pulse. That’s good too, but no one can deny that, whatever we do with our hours, overboard is overboard, and anyone can get soaked. Seeking sensible, non-negotiable moderation, I put myself on “The Device Diet” – eight hours a day without phone surfing. Ironically, it hasn’t hampered me but, rather, given me the gift of time to accomplish other things.

Giving up our device during certain hours each day will enhance our quality of life and increase our productivity. Of course, for each of us, that’s a different timeframe. Perhaps, for commuters, gathering info during the work commute is a great way to be ready for an informed and productive workday. The ride home, then, should become a chance to decompress, listen to music, or watch the city sights roll by. This changes our phone and all portable technology from a possible source of frustration into a mental vacation which can soothe us for our evening activities.

Most people don’t go home to a quiet environment – cozy, with fluffy pillows and a pet rock. Most of us go home to a roommate or spouse, chores, cooking, pets, or kids. Unwinding on the way home is a huge perk for us – and them.

Any habit is hard to break, so we’ll have to discipline ourselves to unplug. The difficulty level of our disconnection will depend on how great our dependency on our phone has grown and whether we use it predominantly to succeed or surf.

Mostly, however, it depends on what we deem imperative to our quality of life and that of the people whose company we are trading tech-time for. Recently, in various interviews, young children expressed feelings of being ignored by parents too often on their cell phones. When asked to complete the sentence, “I wish my parents didn’t …”, of all possibilities, the most common response was some variation of, “have a cell phone.” It speaks volumes.

Making a living takes hard work and dedication, especially in the U.S. today, as our working conditions are deteriorating by the nanosecond. So, many of us rely heavily on portable technology because putting in hours away from work has become an unfair imperative. Still, unions fought for an eight-hour workday because social interaction, health and family ties are also imperative.

If we don’t take time to unplug, we may be present but we’re not involved. Unplugging can be better accomplished by increment and by being tailored to fit true necessity, including work. Much can be delegated to late night or the crack of dawn to budget in bedtime stories and adult conversations. We must delegate time to all the home fires if we want to keep them burning.

Besides, most of us know that, in honesty, much of what we do each day on our phones isn’t urgent. Remembering the answers children gave about time with their parents, it’s painfully obvious that family closeness suffers due to tech addiction and, worse, eventually our kids become tech-addicts too.

My children rarely collect as a complete group; they live various distances from my home. To have most of them in the same room all at once is an accomplishment. Happily, we did that this past weekend, and, very happily, phones were hard to find.

Still, the youngest of my grandies, who is 5, entered the crowded and boisterous kitchen and shouted, “Okay, everybody, devices off! Jack and David are going to play music now.” It didn’t really apply, but it was adorable anyway.

So, yes, devices off; let’s tune out so we can tune in.


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