April 18-24 is Screen-Free Week. Since 1996, organizers have exhorted us to turn off screens via the implementation of Screen-Free Week (formerly TV-Turnoff).
Ever since it replaced turning off the television for one week with the scarier prospect of turning off ALL screens (including computers, video games and smart phones), resistance has risen. I’m sure it has. What you term “resistance” I call “you’ll pry my laptop out of my cold, dead hands.”
Already Turn off TV week sounds quaint doesn’t it? Like pledging to give up your horse and buggy or butter churn. Today we have laptops, iPads, smart phones and hand-held games that make staying connected on the go a natural extension of living.
Unless you are a Luddite, in which case you will be asked to snip the string that connects your two tin cans.
Organizers say that today’s average home has more screens than people and gamely ask “ever wonder what might happen if we unplugged them all?” No. I know what happens. I get antsy and upset and spend an inordinate amount of time calling the power company and begging them to get the power back on ASAP.
During a multiple day power outage a few years ago I was finally told “Yes ma’am, we understand you are concerned about frozen foods and running water and we are working as fast as we can.”
Oh, um, food and water. Sure, that’s it. My daily calls had nothing to do with the fact that I can’t exist without my online calendar and email. None at all.
As you might imagine the prospect of willingly unplugging my computer screen for a week leaves me light headed. Did someone suggest “oxygen free week?”
I want to be a person who can flip the switch, unplug and embrace the dark side, technologically speaking. I want to commune with nature. Be one with my mind. Revisit the art of written letters and conversation, I do.
Then, having done that, I REALLY want to go on Facebook and tell someone about it. I mean, if an Internet addict has an experience in the forest, does it make a sound if she can’t SHARE it immediately? I think not.
It’s not that I’m ‘addicted’ to my computer and the Internet, exactly. It’s just that I cannot live without it and fear that I may in fact die. Like most obsessives, I can justify my reliance on my crutch — the Internet — beautifully.
I organize my calendar online. I log on early each morning so I can get a feel for the day. I shop, plan for sales and get coupons online (I’m SAVING here!) My banking is all done online.
I share photos and seek crucial information such as the proper pronunciation of “julienne” and whether any celebrities have self-destructed overnight. I stay in touch with family and friends via Facebook, gaining valuable inspiration on charitable acts and fitness.
Okay, I really just read about OTHER people running marathons and doing good deeds, but I do think I’m a better person just for KNOWING those people don’t you? Surely “liking” their accomplishments burns a calorie or two on my end? I point, I click. It’s exhausting. Then I go look up a recipe for lemon cookie bars or cheesy chicken and bacon, because all that hard work makes me hungry.
I search and save recipes and meal plans online. If my family wants to eat, Mama needs access to the Internet so she can find the recipe for creamy chicken enchiladas that she has made 10,000 times but somehow still cannot recall from scratch.
Finally (and this is my trump card), all my website trolling and blogging is research. I’m a writer. It’s my JOB, people! (I say this even if I’m caught red-handed on eBay).
To be fair, however, I knew I had a problem when I was offline for two days, failed to appear on Facebook and in utter seriousness at least three friends assumed I may, in fact, have died. While I appreciate their thoughtfulness and concern, it was eye-opening to receive messages pleading with me to “check in” because they were worried about me.
First, I have wonderful friends. Love them. Second, I have a problem and clearly spend too much time online. Hate that. Perhaps what I need is less a 7-day disconnection program and something more along the lines of a 12-step program? Hello, my name is Kymberly, and I am an Internet addict.
I should probably get help for this. I wonder they offer online meetings?
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt writes from the comfort of home — where she valuables her Internet connection more than running water, apparently. She welcomes comments c/o LifeOutLoud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460 and blogs online at www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)