Connection…

It’s what people crave. Yet more and more, people are going to on-line sources to bond on the bandwidth. Generation Z, the millennial generation, seem to be born with a smartphone in hand.

While connecting online isn’t necessarily a bad thing, are people spending so much time under the alluring glow of a computer screen that they are ignoring those closest to them?

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People often find that internet has taken over their lives and do Facebook Fasts or No-Screen weekends. People crave connection, but are often buried in their phone sitting right next to the one they love the most. There is something about looking into someone’s eyes while they are talking that tells them that they matter. To give people your full attention, as opposed to half hearing them over the drone of the T.V. or the typing of the keyboard while conversing with the universe, is a rarity. And it shouldn’t be…

So, in the spirit of reconnecting without the help of the virtual world, here are some ideas to reduce screen time.

1) Limit internet and T.V. time to when actual conversation isn’t an option.
Make it a goal to be attentive, not just present, when loved ones are around.
If you have kids and a busy schedule, this may mean eating dinner together at the table and talking about about your day instead of breaking out the T.V. trays and reaching for the remote. A great conversation table starter, “What was the best part of your day?” Your family will be closer for it and you just might learn a few things.

2) Get outside and interact with others!
We don’t have a data package on our smart phones. So, when I leave the house, the only thing I can do with my phone is call someone or take pictures. I know, shocking! I like it this way. When I’m out of my house, I don’t want to have my nose buried in a smart phone. I want to interact in the real world with the amazing people and beautiful scenery surrounding me. You never know if the next stranger you smile at could become your dearest friend. Not having internet while I’m out also saves money. And, not checking my email till I get back home has yet to cause me any bodily harm.

3) Connect with outdoor hobbies, exercise groups, or sports with your kids.
Excessive on-line connection facilitates a sedentary lifestyle. Not only will you be healthier, but you will connect with real people who share your passions. I love training for triathlons with fellow athletes. It’s really hard to mess with your smart phone while sweating up a storm, burning away the stress and calories, and having fun with others.

4) Have a specific family day that you protect.
My husband and I have one day each week that we set aside to be together. We may just relax at home and read a book to each other, go for a hike, hit the beach, or go out with friends. We are building memories every time and strengthening our marriage.

While you may not be able to do this weekly, schedule time on the calendar to do something as a family sans computer or T.V. Your options are endless! You can go hiking, take up rock climbing, go on a picnic, learn a new skill, or play fun outdoor family games.

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5) Put thought into others.
Anyone can rush out and buy a gift last minute. When it’s your loved one’s special day, like a birthday or anniversary or just because, cut out a bit of time to show them that you really put effort into making their day. For example, you can plan a day away just for them doing all the things that they love to do, and cut the internet cord in the process so they don’t have to compete with the web.

6) Turn off the notifications on your internet devices.
If you are trying to keep your focus on your family and friends, you don’t want your smartphone or computer chirping in the background. It will tempt you to check it. Turn off the notifications. That email or text can wait until your done talking to the person right in front of you.

7) Volunteer and give back.
One of the best ways to connect is to help others. You may find that you feel better too! There are many ways to do this. One site I like is http://www.volunteermatch.org/

From becoming a big brother or big sister, to helping the elderly, or walking dogs at the humane society, you will be make a big difference to people in your circle of influence.

8) Get a pet.
If you volunteer at the humane society, beware of those big brown eyes. Don’t adopt unless you can be a responsible pet parent, but if you can commit, pets are a great way to pull you away from the screen and meet other life forms. Dogs want to be walked and don’t care about who just sent you a message. They are great conversation starters around others. People gravitate to them. I even trained my dog in therapy work and visited sick kids in the hospital. Pets are great to break down barriers and build connections with others.

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9) For far-away friends, pick up the phone and call instead of text.
It’s often less time-consuming to send a text these days, and that’s my point. There is something so much more personal about taking the time to hear someone’s voice. Now, I will give you permission to use your computer to do video calls. But, don’t just text when you can have a deeper face-to-face connection.

10) Learn a new skill with others.
Once we leave school, many people get into a rut and forget to learn new things. Join a cooking class, take a course on a foreign language so you can travel somewhere new and talk to the locals, or try your hand at pottery. The possibilities for learning and interacting are endless.

Socrates said it best, “Everything in moderation, nothing in excess.” Unfortunately, when it comes to screen time, this is hard to follow. While the internet isn’t bad, it does poise a problem when you miss out on the lives of those closest to you. We are never guaranteed tomorrow. No deathbed musings contain, “I wish I had watched one more episode of the Bachelor or wrote one more email.” Instead, the main regret is lost time with those we love the most. Let’s limit our regrets and give our loved ones time now, while we still have the chance.

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