As you may recall, for just over two years our family was TV-free. This doesn’t mean that we were screen-free, though, since we still had three computers and a couple of smart phones. I still watched TV shows online and my kids watched DVDs on the computer.
For the adults in the house, not having a TV meant that we didn’t watch TV “just because”. We didn’t channel surf, or use the TV as background noise. But I made up for my decreased TV viewing by spending a lot of time online. My blogging and blog commenting picked up a lot when our TV died. I spent more time on Twitter and Facebook. I guess you could say that I replaced channel surfing with internet surfing.
Two months ago, we joined the ranks of families with TV again. And it’s been interesting how having an actual TV has shifted our focus.
My husband, who bought the TV to watch sports on, is using the TV to (wait for it ….) watch sports. He sees more than he used to, but I would still say he clocks in at an hour or so most days. I have stopped watching TV on the computer, and instead I watch it on the television, but my viewing hasn’t actually picked up. I can’t watch TV when my children are awake, and when they’re asleep I’m often working, so the TV doesn’t really play a large part in my life. My kids, on the other hand, are a different story. While we maintain strict limits on TV viewing, just having a TV somehow opens the conversation in a new way. They may not watch more TV, but they talk about TV a lot more.
When 2-year-old Jacob wakes up in the morning, he asks to watch TV. When I decline his request (as I always do at that hour) he asks to play on the computer. And failing that, he tries to sneak my iPhone out of my pocket. The child is in love with screens, just like his big sister Hannah. I have never seen Hannah walk away from a TV that was turned on, which is why we limit it so much. Left to their own devices, I’m pretty sure my kids would stare at a screen most of their waking hours. To say I’m less than thrilled is an understatement.
I have to be honest with myself, though. Much as I talk the anti-screen talk, I am pretty addicted to screens myself.
I spend a good portion of my own life in front of a screen, in fact. I write blog posts and read other people’s blogs. I check my email and tweet pretty constantly. And when I’m not on the computer, I’m often futzing around on my iPhone. I am a screen addict, even if I watch as much TV in a week as the average North American watches in a day.
If the idea of putting my phone away somewhere for a full day makes me twitchy, and I am constantly staring at a screen, what can I expect from my kids? I have to be willing to walk the walk myself if I expect them to. Right now, I am clearly not walking the walk. It’s true that my work is entwined in my online presence, so I can justify it. But I am kidding myself if I think that every minute I spend staring at a screen is productive and necessary, or somehow benefiting my life.
I am making 2011 about space. The de-cluttering and organizing and schedule-clearing have come fairly easily to me. But there is a big part of my life that could really use attention, and it’s my computer use. The idea of cutting back makes my palms sweat, which is probably (definitely?) a sign that I need to ask myself some hard questions in this area. I need to streamline my technology use, cut back on my screen time, and set a better example.
I don’t want to be constantly tied to my phone and my computer. That means that I’m going to have to make a conscious effort not to be. This is not going to be easy for me, so I need some help. How do you streamline your computer use? Do you set aside dedicated time to tackle email, and then avoid checking it the rest of the day? Do you set limits on your Facebook and Twitter use? How do you maintain connections online without letting it take over your life? I’d love to hear!