When I was little, I remember being the last on the block to get a microwave, VCR, and cable TV.
We had six TV stations in black and white with a rabbit antenna on top of the TV that sometimes had aluminum foil attached to them to ensure a stronger picture.
Often, my sister and I would watch Tarzan and Abbott and Costello movies on the U-18 channel – the channel you access by dialing to U, then turning the bottom dial to the number.
It was the 70s.
Everything about childhood in the 70s was awesome.
We drank from hoses. Yes. Hoses.
We drank orange juice and made juice pops in the summer.
We ate candy bars at the pool snack bar and licked every sticky gooey melted mess of it never thinking about sugar and the ingredients.
We watched maybe a max of an hour of TV a week, because there wasn’t anything to watch, and we talked on phones with our grandparents using heavy handsets with long curly chords that could never stay tangle free.
It was the 70s.
We certainly didn’t know as much then as we know now.
Technology Changed Our Lives – for better or for worse
So, today, I’m showing my age a bit. GOOD.
I love being in my 40s, because here in this century of technology normalcy, I have had the chance to really learn what’s important to me and I work daily to get closer to it. It’s people. It will always be people.
God gave us our lives to do something unique, purposeful, and impactful. Here in the teens (is that we call the 2000 teens??), I see amazing ways of connecting with people like never before.
We text, chat, FaceTime, Facebook, tweet, post, pin, snapchat, and more. We have unlimited, seemingly infinite ways of connecting.
It’s great for connecting with extended family, old friends and new. It’s great for starting conversations about something that interests us and for discovering for new passions. It’s been a foundation for starting my business. I will not look the gift horse in the mouth.
What was once a linear world of telephone lines, faxes, and snail mail is truly connected and integrated with technology and its infinite tools. The world is so beyond the early explorers’ idea of flat. It’s not only round, it’s concentric as we communicate without boundaries.
And that’s just it.
In a world with no boundaries on communication, too much of a good thing can be very bad.
How often I see these beautiful tools that have helped me make this business launch and grow also be the same tools that keep us from having real, face to face conversations with people we love – undistracted. These same tools make us think that the news trend or fad of the moment is truly the most important thing we should be thinking about. But is it?
No. It’s not.
Here’s what I think.
Everyone needs to unplug every week for a minimum of 24 hours. Not should (my least favorite word), but needs.
No way! I could never, you think.
Yes you can.
And, I know it’s not easy.
72 Hours Unplugged
I did it for 72 hours this past weekend. When my husband or Mom would ask me if I had seen or heard about something, I hadn’t.
The first few hours were tricky, because it had been a habit to check-in on the “latest”, but as time pushed forward, I found myself only using my camera to take pictures of my kids – for us. I was more mindful and aware of my surroundings. I was connected. Not with Instagram. Not with Facebook. Just us. Even while our car was broken down on the side of the road, I didn’t post the token photo (my husband posted a great one – seen here). Instead, I took this unfortunate experience and made it fun with my family. They are the reason I take pictures, but the need to share them on social is just one of those extra things that we now do, because of the era we live in.
My Social Media Pattern
So here’s how the pattern has gone. Typically, most nights, I’ll log in to Facebook and see what’s happening with friends and family. Then the journey down the long, dark hole begins. Something piques my interest and I go there. Then I zig somewhere else and zag after that. Often, it’s over an hour before I realize how much time I’ve spent there.
60 minutes. That’s a long time.
Even my 3 year-old will tell you that five minutes is a long time! So take 12 of those 5 –minute increments and imagine what we could do!
What Happened During my 72 Hours
So the other night, amidst my Unplugged Challenge, we had the perfect sky at my parents’ house in the North Carolina mountains. We broke out the dusty telescope and found a small space in the trees on the front porch where we could take a closer look at the bright, blinding 1-day shy blue moon.
After some awkward lens adjustments and feeling like we were at the optometrist having the backs of our eyes examined, we focused, we got comfortable, and there it was. The biggest crater I have ever seen with my own eyes. We could see the jagged imperfections of the mountains and the surface that otherwise just look like a smooth round ball on any other night.
Even better? I had a few quality minutes with my Mom exploring, tinkering, and getting to the prize – an up close view of our moon. Time in the dark peace of the mountains where the only sound was a crunch of leaves in the forest by some nocturnal friend.
So what would Mom and I usually be doing at that time? Well, I think she’d say she’d be playing Words with Friends or solitaire, or perhaps her bi-weekly catch-up on Facebook. I would probably have been on one of the social media outlets, writing, or catching up on some PBS program with my Dad sleeping soundly in his chair.
Instead, I saw the moon with my Mom. Then we invited my husband. He had to get unplugged from his late-night work for a few minutes. So in just 20 minutes, the three of us saw something so incredible. Precious moments and memories.
Why Getting Unplugged Really Does Matter
How many precious moments and memories do you have from Facebook? Not the ones you’ve posted, but the ones that you GOT from Facebook? I’m sure they’re on fewer than five fingers. Do an inventory. Instagram? Pinterest? Twitter?
Yes, I know. We get inspired. We get connected. I get that.
But REAL MEMORIES happen when we are connected with people. God put us in community for a reason. We are not to be separated which is what technology does to us. It separates us. I see people completely unable to have a conversation without connecting with their cell phones, tablets, or computers.
So, I want you to take this week to do a true Summer Camp Ritual.
You’re going to GET UNPLUGGED.
Yes. Totally unplugged. So please plan ahead.
You get to choose your time-frame (and FYI – this is non-work related unplugged unless you can take vacation. I don’t want you to get fired!). Choose 24, 48, or 72 hours to stay off of texts, websites, social media, and email. Everything.
Then, do it. Ask a friend to help keep you motived. Journal about how you spend your time. Note the new awareness you have and the memories coming from this time.
This is SELFUL time. Yes. You’re actually giving yourself an amazing gift. I bet some of you will find this the best Summer Camp 2015 activity you’ve participated in all summer.
And you know that I want to hear about it! Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and after you’ve unplugged share your insights by using #getunplugged and #betsysummercamp2015.
So, take a trip back to the 70s. See what it feels like to have no technology in your life. And if you’re really serious about it, turn off your TV and PC too.
Cheers to getting totally unplugged!