Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year’s resolution: Unplug and connect

My New Year’s resolution for the coming year is to unplug and connect.

I plan to unplug in the sense that I won’t be so constantly wired in to the multiple electronic devices that I own and now consider indispensable. I plan to strike a balance between what is necessary and what is gratuitous. I have to have a cell phone and iPad for work. I don’t have to check them constantly for email or Facebook updates.

Beyond that, there is television. Television has become a ubiquitous presence in our society. Most of us have several in our homes. Restaurants from the smallest fast food chains to the ritziest bistros now usually have televisions blaring. In many cases, we probably don’t know or care what is on. It’s just there as background noise. If we did, we might realize that much of what is on is an affront to our values and is teaching our children things we might just as soon that they not learn. At best we are living vicariously the life that some screenwriter thinks we should. 

Do we really have to be entertained constantly? Are we so afraid of a little silence that we must be wired to gadgets 24/7? Perhaps we’re not just bored. Perhaps we’re afraid to realize how shallow and disconnected our lives have become as we replace real flesh-and-blood relationships with digital ones.

The second part of my resolution is to connect with my family and other people. It doesn’t do my wife and kids much good if I’m with them, but staring at a screen. Likewise, my kids can stare for hours at Youtube videos… if I let them.

The latest Facebook status update is not important. In the grand scheme of things, neither is the latest update on the fiscal cliff, Lindsay Lohan’s (or insert celebrity du jour here) escapades, sports scores or news of pretty much any sort. We have shockingly little control about what goes on in the world around us. If I could control events, Mitt Romney would have won in a landslide.

The biggest measure of control that we have in our lives in within our own families. We control how our kids grow up, largely by the example that we set. If we want to make a difference in the world, this is where we should start.

We can also connect with our families by working less. If we cut the consumption of the trendy digital devices that only serve to disconnect us from reality in the first place, then we need less money. We can cut out the overtime or take a more rewarding job, even if there isn’t a pay increase.

I also want to connect with friends. In the six years that we have lived in our current home, we haven’t made any deep friendships with our neighbors. I want to change that. Part of it is that we live in a small town with all of its family connections and cliques. Part of it is that we haven’t tried all that hard. We’ve had friends who lasted for a season, but we always ended up going separate ways for one reason or another.

In the coming year I want to find good people to befriend. People who share my values and who like to have fun. People with kids. People that we can relax and be ourselves with. People who also want to unplug and enjoy the real world.

In 2013, I’ll be looking at a screen a little less and looking at the real world a little more. That will lead to a bigger impact on the part of the world that is most important to me: my family.

Join me if you dare.

Originally published on Examiner.com:


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