The Winter of Our Disconnect: Chapter 7


“The low-level gratification of binge snacking was clearly the perfect accompaniment to the low-level gratification of binge connectivity.” – Susan Maushart, The Winter of Our Disconnect

Despite being near the end of the book, this chapter focuses on how connectivity affects the arguably most important habits of our lives: eating and sleeping. Maushart begins her query by analyzing her children’s grazing habits. She notes that the demand-feeding that was popular during their infancies has persisted. Instead of eating scheduled, balanced meals, they snack and graze throughout the day. Her daughter even noted, “I’ve never actually been hungry.”

But statistics show that family meals matter: they are “consistently correlated with positive outcomes for children.” Maushart cites all of the examples of the benefits–and there are many! Among them is the fact that demographics do not matter when it comes to the importance of breaking bread together: “Rich or poor, middle class or underclass, highly educated or barely educated, families that eat meals together are dishing up a smorgasbord of advantages for their kids.” And even more interesting is the fact that the meal itself isn’t a make-it-or-break-it factor; whether it’s a homemade meal or fast food, the togetherness is what matters. And many experts (apparently) say, it’s the opportunity to “visually assess” kids that is the real secret sauce to the family meal’s acclaim.

Maushart’s thoughts made me think back to our meals growing up. Almost every dinner with my mother and brother that I can remember was spent watching Wheel of Fortune (I’m the reigning champ!… though my mom beat me recently and will never let me live it down) and Friends (we’ve seen every episode. Twice. At least.) Home-cooked or fast food, we almost always shared dinner time together. But though we spent some time catching up on our days’ happenings, a majority of dinner was spent furiously yelling out Before & Afters or laughing at Joey. And I may be biased, but we turned out pretty freaking awesome. Just saying, there’s some anecdotal evidence for you.

Maushart goes on to address the facts around kids having TVs in their rooms and how it affects their lives. It’s fascinating!… but a lot of factoids for one blog post 🙂 She also talks about the effects on sleep <insert more interesting factoids>, but I liked her anecdotal summary best: “… it soon became apparent that the less we used our technology to ‘chill,’ the more rest and sleep we enjoyed.”

But my favorite analogy was the term “blobbiness,” meant to describe our increasing shift toward having no boundaries. Maushart likens this to entropy, or a tendency to move toward randomness and the decrease of differentiating parts. Basically, our sleep patterns, time management, moods and more become fluid and less defined. And, I’d add, that we become less defined in the process. Akin to the pancake concept from last chapter and Carr of spreading ourselves too thin, I think the danger lies in losing ourselves without even realizing it. I know that sounds dramatic, and I do love a good hyperbole, but think about it.