In the age of iPods, iPads, and controller-free gaming systems like the XBox 360 Kinect do you think you could go 6 months screen-free? Would you even dare to try? Author Susan Maushart did- and even more incredibly, convinced her three teenage children to go along for the ride.
In my household, just the whisper of “The Experiment,” as Susan’s family came to call their six month technology ban, would be cause for a mutiny. Sure my boys enjoyed our “Little House on the Prairie Day” when after reading the book we went an entire day without electricity and made our own butter, but they were boys then. At 16 and 21 asking them to give up texting, Pawn Stars, and Call of Duty Black Ops with wireless headset for smack-talking with friends across county lines would be too much for them…and I suspect me as well.
I’m not quite as addicted to connection as they are. I still enjoy reading, playing cards & sitting on my patio listening to the wind rush through the trees without earbuds in my ears. But I also enjoy being able to call my husband and chat while I’m driving home from a business meeting, logging into Facebook to tell my niece in California I miss her and being able to catch the Minnesota Wild in action no matter what state or country they may be playing in.
Susan’s children Anni, Bill, and Sussy had a hard time initially with the decision. How would they do their homework? What would they do to occupy their time? How would they ever be able to walk their dog without an iPod?
But eventually, Susan found her children moving from being sullen and bored to engaged and excited about the new things they were now doing in lieu of IM’ing. Board games were fun and a novelty for friends visiting after school, cooking became more experimental, instruments languishing in the bedroom closet started making music again and a ten-volume collection of Murakami books was a thrilling sweet sixteen birthday gift compared to last year’s Nintendo DS.
Did that mean at the end of “The Experiment” they all smashed their laptop screens and threw their iPhones in the lake? No. On the contrary, they gathered at midnight to celebrate with DVDs, laptops and cellphones at the ready only to suffer “media hangover” the next day. But they did learn a lot about themselves…and each other. They learned that there were other people in the house and they were kind of fun to hang out with. They learned how to form friendships outside of Facebook, and they learned technology is better in smaller doses.
I enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations of Susan’s family in trying to exist without all the inventions that have become such a way of life for most people. The author did a lot of research on her subject and I learned a lot of interesting things about how we, as a society, use technology. Any time new technological advances are made we hear about how this or that will be the downfall of our society, but technology itself is not as evil as some early scholars cried it would be.For instance, Socrates feared that reading would cause people to “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful,” and a German critic predicted the reading revolution would cause a pandemic of “colds, headaches, weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout and arthritis.”
The point is technology, when used for it’s intended purpose and used in moderation can actually do some good- as witnessed in studies done on Digital Natives (those who have always had this technology from birth.) Digital Natives are smarter than we are. IQ tests show that they are gaining 3 points per decade and their peripheral vision is better- have you ever tried to text and walk at the same time?
But there is hope for us Digital Immigrants yet. Research shows we are less vulnerable to distraction and we are better researchers since we don’t only skim for keywords.
The information packed into this book was exyensive. Interesting- but not a page turner. I was hoping Susan would include more personal stories and journal entries, but I did like it and it has caused some pretty interesting conversations around our dinner table. 3/5 stars