Digital Detox – Mother banned the net for 6 months…and sells a book.

An interesting article has been written recently and covered in the mainstream press.  Its regarding a mother/journalist who banned the Internet/Facebook (and basically anything with a screen) in her family for 6 months.  Keeping a hand written journal she has now published a book on the subject which she wishes to sell you.  I am looking at this as both a tech observer/writer and parent myself.

You can read the source article here.

Putting aside the financial rewards she receives for putting her family through this 6 month “experiment” or “Digital Detox”, I wanted to explore the concept of such a ban.  As a parent myself,  I ask the question, is a ban really a “Digital Detox” or, in today’s society more of a excluding action which rightly or wrongly not, separates people from society.

“Trendy” people – you are not interesting!

I’ll start by saying that I believe Facebook is insidious and as it seems the purpose of the ban “experiment” was around Facebook/social networking, concentrate my article around that.   Watching people on the train buried into their mobile devices, chuckling to themselves as they read their “wall”, gossiping about work colleges, snooping on acquaintances and occasionally (in some cases) making other people’s lives a misery with bullying and abuse, are all reasons why I see no worth with Facebook.

Listen carefully Facebook users – Nobody wants to see your 100th snap of you standing in a pub with a drink in your hand, people don’t want to see what you think is “funny” and its only politeness that keeps people from saying that your activities in your spare time (except from a gossip angle) have no interest what so ever.

Of course Facebook has another purpose – Posturing is commonplace and its a great way to show how much of a “better” person you are by advertising on your wall how great and exciting you think your life is or how many “friends” you have.  Much of the time, the people reading your wall are merely laughing at you, but pride prevents anyone engrossed in Facebook to see this.  You are a better person for having a large friends list, everyone wants to see your photo’s and everyone thinks you are really great. – Keep thinking that, keep uploading more of your life onto the site, it’s what the Facebook owners want.  Well-done you are not too far away from being completely dependent on Facebook!

What I find most amusing though is that many of the people who upload their lives and personal details to Facebook, who sit buried in a world of digital gossip and showing off were some of the very same people who 10-15 years ago called anyone who spent time on a computer as a “loner” or a “geek” and made joke that they were socially stunted.  Truth is, us “geeks” were doing exactly the same things (social networking) way before the internet (via BBS) and this “new great thing” the mainstream have “discovered”, was being done by “geeks” years ago.  Next time you are on the train late on a friday night, check out the “trendy” people engrossed in their Facebook world.  Unfortunately the “mainstream tech user” makes up a large proportion of the populas which is part of the hook which will have you believing to be part of society you need to be on Facebook.  To get back on topic though, this is why I think the “Digital Detox” experiment was so silly.

What was the point?

I’m sure for the “average user” life without Facebook seems unbearable and believe I can understand why.  Like lemmings they’ve followed each other up the cliff and now their lives are so entrenched in this area of cyberspace that to withdraw from this world would leave them socially stunted to the point of being unthinkable.

By the time my kids will be wanting to get involved with social networking, Facebook will probably be a memory and there will be a new “service” which is just as insidious.  Whilst I would hope that my children would make the decision not to get involved, I would not seek to ban or prevent them, merely because it’s a sad state of affairs to admit, that to do so would socially exclude them from their peers.  At the very least I would hope they see sites like Facebook for what they are and their involvement is part of a balanced lifestyle.  That, just like a balanced diet is, as I say responsible parenting.

The point of Susan Maushart’s “experiment” seems all too obvious to me – To write and sell a book which excluded her family for 6 months (rightly or wrongly) from a social outlet.  The gesture was pointless since they are all back online now and one persons “experiment” makes no difference to a social networking world which will tick along quite happily during her boycott.  What did make me question her dedication to this cause was whilst there was no TV, Computers, etc….. It wasn’t a complete ban:

Had hoped to save money on this new regime, but between cinema tickets, books and CDs (we’re allowed those —thank God!) am cleaned out for this month already

Source: Daily Mail

So really it wasn’t a full detox at all and it certainly didn’t save her any money.   I’d suggest a “real” Digital Detox would be to remove all of the above and maybe I would have been more interested in her book if she had.

Conclusions

Setting aside my views on a journalist putting her family through a temporary ban of the internet and writing a book, I think this highlights perfectly the commonly held view that in someway the Internet is bad.  The Internet is not bad, it’s some services/products that make it so.  There is no “Digital Detox” since the Internet can be an excellent learning tool and a great social experience, it’s called responsible parenting and instead of banning something, maybe a better approach to parenting is to encourage ones children into other interests (both on and off-line) rather than letting them getting totally engrossed in an online world then taking it away.

Before The Experiment, it was not uncommon to find Sussy on her laptop or watching TV in the early hours

Source: Daily Mail

So why, if she believed her family was in need of a digital detox did she let her daughter (Sussy) get to this stage in the first place? [1]  Apparently (according to a local radio interview) her son was an avid online gamer, that too is something which every responsible parent in my view monitors to prevent needing a ban in the first place.

Unfortunately services like Facebook hook people into their world and the “mainstream” user is now having a battle with their own views, on one hand thinking computing is “geeky” and on the other completely dependent on a social networking site for entertainment.  There must be some real conflict for them.

Meanwhile, I like any many other alleged “geek” or “loner” looks at the Facebook addicted with a combination of pity and humour, sitting patiently to see what the next “craze” will be.  Just like the Pokemon cards craze that were so massive years ago, there will be something new which the masses will migrate to.

Internet == Bad? No, letting yourself or your children get totally entrenched in social networking or the internet is.  Think this Digital Detox is a good idea? Sadly, to do so will exclude yourself or children from their peers.  Balance is what is needed here, a little willpower and responsible parenting is required rather than a “detox”.  But failing that, if you do allow your children to become entrenched in social networking and online services and then withdraw it [2],  you can always write a book like Susan (and perhaps she can recoup some of the money she has spent trying to fill the gap left by the ban after letting her children get to the stage where she thinks a total ban would be healthy)

Perhaps you should try pulling the plug for a little while yourself — you’ll be amazed by what happens.

Source: Daily Mail

No, I think I’ll approach the whole subject with responsible parenting and have the Internet as part of a balanced set of interests rather than let it get to a stage where the plug needs to be pulled.

I think I preferred computing when the “mainstream” user wasn’t interested.

Notes

[1] When having a digital detox, I’d suggest removing movies to be an integral part of that.

[2] Said in jest of course, when you need to remove the internet from your children,  it suggests to me a rather irresponsible parenting to allow them to get to that stage in the first place.

Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com / TwitterIdenti.ca

You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes

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