Has Technology Stolen Your Evenings, Weekends, and Vacations?

March 27, 2014 · 16 comments

cell phones and laptops

It took about 200 years for unions to get us a 40 hour workweek, and it took smart phones about 5 years to completely take them away.”

If you’re reading this hoping for some answers, you may find a few here, but mostly you’ll find someone who is probably just like you. Someone struggling with the issue of how to keep technology under control in our lives, and in our children’s lives, and maybe we can get a good discussion going that will help us learn from each other…

By the way, the title of this post isn’t exactly right. “Stolen” implies that something was taken against our will, but we have clearly allowed this to happen. Certainly not on purpose, though.

Technology is an insidious, time and money-sucking beast, isn’t it?

kimmitimemoneyIn My Life:

First — MONEY:

I’ve had my Mac for a few years now, and it has made life much easier in some ways (I have to swear at it MUCH less than I did with a PC), but now that the wheel of death spins at me a good portion of the day and I frequently have to reboot, it’s time to drop big bucks on another one.  It’s not in the budget now though, so I sit.  And I wait.  Then there’s the iPhone.  Next month my contract is up and I’ve found a much cheaper way to go, but I have to buy the new phone outright.  Ouch, that’ll hurt.  It’s always some piece of technology breaking or wearing out, just like everything else around the house, especially with kids!  Yes, they’re only things, but it’s annoying. (Any tips or suggestions?)

Next — TIME:

Working at home is tough.  The computer is always here waiting, calling out for me to get on there and get caught up.  But getting “caught up” rarely happens, does it?  And with our smart phones, we can work anywhere, even on vacation, no matter what our job.  Kent is really good about just turning his off on nights and weekends. (Unless he’s got a night-job going, then he’ll need it on in case his guys on the site need him.)  I do enjoy my business (it’s fun firing you up about real food!), so that’s one thing, but I sooooo envy those, like Kent, with healthy boundaries who just shut it all down on evenings and weekends.

Maybe it’s because most of them aren’t also homeschooling…?

Yes, I need to cut myself a break sometimes.

I’d love to know YOUR ideas for setting up better boundaries and sticking to them.

Here are a few random tips that have helped me recently:

Some of these are related to getting more done, but mostly it’s about feeling better, so I can accept and be at peace about what I can’t get done each day…

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about a post Jen Fulwiler put up on this topic recently: The Secret to Not Being Overwhelmed. I can’t say that this has completely taken away my frequent feelings of being overwhelmed, but it has helped a little to remind myself, “Maybe I wasn’t supposed to get that done today…”
  • Do you know what else has helped me a lot? Making sure I keep up on taking my ‘all-natural chill pill’ for anxiety. (Click here to read that post or just click here to order it.) Seriously, when I’m consistent with this, I’m more level in every way. The kids’ fighting and teasing doesn’t drive me to insanity (not as much anyway!), the never-ending to-do list “can just wait”, and my moods are much more pleasant.
  • Earthing matI use this Earthing Mat to mitigate the effects of using technology so much in my life.  (Read that post here or click here to order.)
  • Now that we’re homeschooling, and I’ve learned the value of the “NO” word, I don’t feel as pulled into outside commitments, so that helps a lot. I don’t feel guilty about it anymore, either; I’ll be able to jump back into church ministries, cooking more meals for people, or other volunteer positions that I know I’d be good at when the kids are grown. God certainly doesn’t call me to run myself ragged, so for now I’m a homeschooling Mom and I have my business and that’s IT.
  • It helps to keep reminding myself that even during that one year when all of the kids were in school (the year before we began homeschooling), I couldn’t get it “all done” then, either, so it’s never going to be “all done”.
  • I’ve been trying to get better about not working on the computer on Sundays, so I can hang with the kids, cook something extra delicious, and enjoy my favorite pastime: reading. If I could just be better about that, then working evenings and Saturdays probably wouldn’t bother me so much.  I can’t always pull it off, though, especially if we’re gone all day on the Saturday prior.
  • boundariesI always feel better when I make a point to get outside to walk/run or to get to Zumba. Even reading on the treadmill is a treat!  What’s YOUR favorite way to get moving?
  • I’ve been better about going to bed with Kent between 9:00 and 10:00 — for real! Then I get up early and work when I’m fresh and the kids are still sleeping.  It’s so nice and quiet, and I’ve got my coffee…   :)
  • Somehow (and I don’t know exactly how) the answer is in not allowing the time-suck to continue. Maybe I need to re-read my book called, Boundaries, When to Say Yes, When to Say No, How to Take Control of Your life!

In Our Kids’ Lives:

FB-pongWorse than all of the affects on my own life, are the ramifications I see in our kids’ lives. Our oldest has his cell phone on him at all times, and of course he won’t listen to his Mom and get this radiation reducing case like I have (I even said I’d pay for it!). Our almost 15 year old gets all stressed out when someone has raided their Minecraft site (although I do love the mostly NON-violent play on that game). Our 12-year-old daughter loves to watch cooking shows on the iPad.  Our 8 year old enjoys playing FIFA on PS4 with his big brother. Yes, there’s the option to “go Amish” and rip it all out of here. But, besides that it would be a bit hypocritical when I spend so much time myself on electronics for my business, I also don’t see how we could go back now.  It’s what our teen DOES with his friends. It’s also something good for us to take away when they’re grounded. We’re pretty good about boundaries with the younger two, and thankfully they do love doing/playing other kid things, being outside, etc., but in the next breath we complain that they don’t like to read as much as we do. I just don’t have the answers.

Watch this video with more about the technology rat race:

“They call it the great American speed up.  So many of us today seem to be in overdrive.”

“If you’re old enough you remember a day when after work you go home from work and maybe once every six months you would get an after-hours call from work, but for the most part you didn’t think about work until it was time to go back to work the next day. Well, not anymore. Now work is in your hand, on the screen, staring you in the face…”

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  • { 15 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 BarbaraAinSC March 27, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I’m no expert, and I’m single with no kids, but it really helped me to do a “media fast” where I took 10 days with no media (TV, facebook, twitter, internet – exception was email). It’s been 3 weeks since I did it, and I find that I don’t feel as “compelled” to be on the internet or watch TV. I can get on the internet or not, but it can also wait. I’ll live. :) I find that I am doing better with getting important tasks done and then choosing to go on the Internet/watch TV when I need a little “escape” or down time.

    I would “encourage” others to try a day or 2 without media (except email). (Paid work is also an exception to this.) It forces us to think of other things to do. :) I think it has made me a little more “active” vs. “passive.”

    My two cents. :)

    Reply

    2 KitchenKop March 27, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Barbara, that’s a great idea. My problem is that my tech time *does* help pay the bills, so it’s trickier for me to draw that line! But taking breaks are a great discipline to practice.

    Kelly

    Reply

    3 Bob A March 27, 2014 at 11:59 am

    A character in a book I’m reading right now was railing against our society’s addiction to technology, and I think the quote is fairly accurate: ” We text about a tweet of a youtube video posted on Facebook with a clip of a TV show about not texting that we just texted about. Instead of actual life, we’re now living an air-guitar version of life.”

    I wrote a little rant recently about a woman I witnessed at a restaurant who, instead of living in the moment with her husband and three beautiful little kids, spent the entire meal ignoring all of them, choosing to stare at her iPhone instead.
    http://brainstembob.com/2014/01/31/whats-so-social-about-social-media/

    Technology is here to stay, but we’ve very quickly tipped to the ‘excessive usage’ side of things…. we (our kids especially) are going to need to find a way to balance their devices with their “real” lives.
    And yes, occasional media fasts are a terrific idea!

    Reply

    4 KitchenKop March 27, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Hey Bob,

    “An air-guitar version of life” – at first I laughed, and then I remembered that it’s actually sad!

    I loved that rant that you shared, by the way.

    Kel

    Reply

    5 Patty Jaynes March 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    As a homeschool mom of 2, the oldest graduating this May who is dual enrolled with no drivers license, co-director of our homeschool co-op, and all of the running around this involves, I have found that setting specific times to get onto technology (and sticking to it) really smooths my day. I very rarely do Sunday, even if I miss Saturday. We all need a break from it! If it’s that important, someone will find a way to reach you. Don’t let it steal your joy and the people to people contact we are made for. :-)

    Reply

    6 KitchenKop March 27, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Patty, well now THAT’S an idea… Keeping off the computer on Sundays EVEN if I didn’t get my work done on that Saturday. It would force me to be more diligent in getting stuff done on the *Friday* before then wouldn’t it? Thanks for getting my wheels turning!

    “Don’t let it steal your joy and the people to people contact we are made for.” I needed that reminder!

    Reply

    7 Anna March 27, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Kelly, this is a really good post. I have no idea what the answer is. I feel this stress and pressure myself and would love to just disconnect completely some days, but I feel like society is moving in this direction and I need to adapt somehow. My job is involved with communications technology as well so I feel I have to stay up-to-date on all these things, but it’s not pleasurable for me. I have no desire to play games on my phone, read on a kindle or all kinds of other things. I hate the idea of google glass, which I guess is the next thing. All this “connecting” leads to weakened actual connections, in my view. But people around me seem (especially the ones 10 years younger – I am in my mid-30s but have a number of friends and co-workers who are younger) to be embracing it much more and aren’t stressed by it – or maybe they just don’t appear stressed.

    I like reading this and other blogs, so in that way technology is good, but what I don’t like is I now get over 50 personal emails a day and hundreds at work, and there is so much info everywhere and it’s all too much to keep up with. I stopped looking at Facebook the past couple of months because it was too much and I didn’t enjoy it. I am cutting back overall because I have to for my own mental well-being, but a big part of me is scared that I will be left behind by this technological revolution and will be one of the out-dated ones. I wouldn’t really care except that it affects my employability. Anyway, my stress is probably coming through in the post, but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this way! We live in “interesting” times for sure! I will check out that link on being overwhelmed. Right now, faith is the most helpful thing for me.

    Reply

    8 KitchenKop March 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Anna, I had to go look up Google Glass! When I did I realized I’d seen it before, but yeah, that’s wild stuff. It makes you wonder what in the world will be next, and also makes me realize that what you said is SO true: We need to figure out how to adapt somehow, and more importantly we have to teach our kids how to adapt and preserve what’s left of “real” life, one that’s NOT lived online.

    Kelly

    Reply

    9 Anna March 27, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Kelly, I’ll also add, I sometimes have to remind myself that all of this has happened really just within the last 7 years! For humanity to change that much in that short time is really shocking, and I think speaks to why it’s pretty normal for us to be stressed out. Mobile is mostly what’s responsible for this constant electronic connection. I wasn’t on Facebook until 2007, didn’t have a smart phone until 2009 if I recall correctly (and it was pretty basic then). Before that, you could text on a cell phone and there were blackberries, but even that didn’t exist before about 2005. So it’s BIG changes very quickly. Maybe the pendulum will swing back in some ways.

    Reply

    10 KitchenKop April 2, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    I did it. I busted butt Saturday (after we’d been gone all day) to finish Monday’s post and take Sunday off. It was SOOOOO nice, I’m sticking with it!

    Reply

    11 Soli March 27, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    My biggest secret is that I don’t do much of anything in terms of social media on my phone or iPad. I know, shocking right now. But it keeps me from going into overdrive and having anxiety so the trade off is worth it. Also, my blog is not really a source of income at this point so I HAVE to make sure to put more focus on where the money is, as well as handling the rest of the legal and social stuff for my mother and her estate. The internet will be there when I come back, I have learned that much in the last 20+ years of having an online presence.

    Reply

    12 Jennifer March 31, 2014 at 1:43 am

    I’ve been thinking about this topic all week after reading your post. Our family is under a lot of stress right now, mainly due to the fact that within less than a month, both my husband and I were rear-ended (different vehicles, different circumstances). The first crash was severe (my husband was stopped to make a turn and she didn’t see him so hit him going at least 40 mph) and totaled our family’s main vehicle; nothing short of a miracle that he was fine after one visit to the chiropractor. The second was less severe, but both of my daughters and I are suffering from some post-crash whiplash of varying degrees (my neck was already messed up from a 6-years-old injury). The frustrating thing is that both crashes were completely avoidable; both of the at-fault drivers were not watching the road because they were engaged with their cell phones. :(
    Beyond that, we’re struggling with boundaries within the home as we try to give our teenage boys some leeway with using computers for schoolwork and some “social” time without allowing them to be constantly online. And the whole “inappropriate” website area that is becoming so HARD to avoid. Even though my younger son has just a handful of friends on Facebook (and I have access to his account as a condition of allowing him to have one), and I’ve approved all the friends he has on there, I’ve noticed more and more “inappropriate” ads in his sidebar. Makes me want to just scrap the entire thing.
    The rest of our household is dealing with a lot of hurt and frustration, as my husband has essentially been glued to his iPad from the day he got it (over 4 years ago). My younger son even wrote a persuasive speech (for competitive speech and debate tournaments on a national level) on the dangers technology pose to families, in hopes that doing the research and showing the statistical damage might “wake dad up”. Yet most nights dad comes in from work and goes straight to the easy chair and remains there for the evening with his ear buds in and his eyes on the screen. His family interaction time can be measured in mere minutes per week, sadly.
    I was pondering all these things most of the week after reading your post, and it occurred to me that Michael Crighton had it right years ago when he wrote Jurassic Park. He was talking about fooling around with genetics, but the concept applies equally to all the technological advances that are inundating our world.
    Dr. Ian Malcolm: “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it,… you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
    John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
    Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

    The same thing applies as we bring these devices into our homes and our lives. We ask if we can afford it in terms of dollars, but no one even stops to consider the cost to our time and relationships. We don’t ask if this is something we SHOULD have or SHOULD be using…because it’s so ubiquitous that the idea of even asking seems silly. Many people claim they can’t take a break because they have to do what they do using the internet, not realizing that the internet is no longer something they use, but the thing that uses them. I think Neil Postman had it right, way back in the 80’s when he wrote: “Technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, and who or what will lose.”

    At the very least, it is our duty to stop and ask, BEFORE we engage, not just “what can I do with this?” but “What can this do with and to me? To my relationships? To my time management? To who I am and what I want from life?” We’ve jumped in less than 20 years from typewriters, land lines and CDs, to all-in-one 24/7 connectivity in every medium. If we don’t start hitting the pause button and reevaluating our priorities, we’re going to lose. Forget artificial intelligence. The machines are winning, and we don’t even care.

    Reply

    13 Flo March 31, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Wow, Jennifer — I didn’t see this until I just had posted my comment below. It sounds similar. I don’t think mine is quite as intense as yours but I see it coming.

    Reply

    14 Flo March 31, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I know I’m on enough but my son (17) and hubby drive me even MORE crazy. A phone call at any time from anyone gets their attention. Then there’s the ever-present text messages, work stuff, games, etc. That’s all on top of what I do myself. It feels, sometimes, that there’s not much interaction unless you’re watching the same show together or playing a game. I’m bad enough but I feel I’m at least trying to think about it. The others just take it as a ‘given.’ I feel like making a rule for an hour a day or maybe even just a half hour. I haven’t focused enough to figure out how to do this without raising a ruckus.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Kelly!

    Reply

    15 Jen K. April 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I actually just posted about this exact same thing today! I practice social media free weekends. It’s actually so much easier than it sounds and it encourages me to get up and actually do meaningful things on the weekends with my family and just for myself. Good post!

    Reply

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