Yesterday I saw a segment on The Today Show with Susan Maushart, author of the new book The Winter of Our Disconnect. The book is about her family’s decision to unplug for 6 months—no computers, cell phones, ipads, ipods, TV or video games were allowed in the house.
I find these kind of immersion projects fascinating (obviously) so am interested in taking a closer look at this title the next time I’m at the bookstore. But I must say without even reading the book, it’s already got me thinking.
Maushart told Matt Lauer that while her family won’t be keeping the technology ban any longer, the search did its job. After six months without their gadgets, the family is more connected. Photos throughout the segment showed the family happily gathered—around the piano, the picnic table, any three dimensional object. I guess that’s what you do when you have no computer or Wii game in which to immerse yourself. Just stand in a circle and smile.
As soon as I saw the piece I was struck by the desire to try the experiment myself. I could read all the time! I’d get through so many titles a month without the constant distraction of email and Twitter.
But, then, of course I remembered the part about how I write a blog. And, more importantly, how my preferred method of communication with girl-dates has always been email. Cutting digital communication may have made Maushart’s family closer, but I fear it would do the opposite for my friendships. It would stop them dead in their tracks.
Maushart’s thesis in this book, from what I can tell, is that being plugged in ultimately makes you feel more disconnected. I would agree with that. You don’t want to be the loner hiding behind 4,999 Facebook friends.
But I realized while watching The Today Show that my search is entirely reliant on technology. Making friends in the 21st century is a text-and-email thing. Phone calls come in phase 2. If I cut out technology—even if I allowed myself use of a landline or other non-texting phone—it would sabotage my budding relationships.
I know that there was a time when making new friends involved a) meeting, b) calling each other on the landline phone, and c) making a plan and sticking with it. But today, meeting new pals is about Facebook, text messages, Internet stalking, and general online revelry.
So here’s the question: do new friendships rely too much on technology these days? And if you launched your own “winter of disconnect” week, would your friendship search be screwed?