Let’s unplug so we can plug in.
The current generation of kids has been raised on Internet memes and media sensations, and they have learned to communicate via social media and texting. This makes them tech savvy, but it also makes them disconnected. Every day that I pick three young teens up from school, I notice that the first thing they do is jump onto their phones to check their Instagram accounts. Social media has become THE way to communicate with one another, and sites like Instagram, Vine and YouTube have opened up the world of media consumption.
As we have become more plugged in and more connected, we have ironically become disconnected. Text messaging has become a primary means of communication for many, because it’s fast, convenient, and it takes away the discomfort of confrontation. It’s become commonplace to break up with someone via text, or to ask someone out. Bad news is more often than not shared via texting or social media. I, myself, have found out about a death in the family via text, and there is something deeply impersonal and haunting receiving such a weighted message digitally. While social media is convenient, it places a keyboard and/or screen between you and the person you are attempting to communicate with. It’s easy to “unfriend” someone on Facebook or “unfollow” someone on Instagram—often times, the person in question has no idea of the “unfriending” and won’t for a while! This is surely much easier than letting someone know you are unhappy with the way your relationship has devolved.
What baffles me the most is seeing groups of kids having “conversations” but never once making eye contact with each other. Even in my car after school, the kids will talk, but all of them are ensconced in their phones.
NPR recently reported on a UCLA study that investigated the effects of screen use in 6th graders. Their findings were that kids who spend 5 days in a media free zone (aka camp), had more positive interactions with their peers, and a marked improvement in their ability to read social cues in people’s faces. I would agree that the removal of digital screens does improve social interactions and it also creates a more stable community. At Visions, we don’t allow phones in residential treatment, and as a result, a community develops. Even in our Intensive Outpatient Programs and Day School, screen time is limited — and earned.
In recovery, community is foundational. Reaching our hands out and introducing ourselves helps us stay accountable, and it lets others know we are present and part of the same thing. So perhaps we can let our screens go dark for a spell and reconnect with our communities. Make an effort to unplug and spend some quality time with your family, your community and even yourself. Check out the sky, or the clouds, walk on the beach, feel the sand in your toes and the air against your skin. It’s enlivening to do things like this and it’s innately grounding to connect with the earth, yourself and those around you. Unplugging is good for you, the community, and your recovery.