the winter of our disconnect: chapter 2

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“The stillness was good–now that I’d experienced perhaps twenty minutes of it–but it was also, frankly, just a tiny bit spooky.” – Susan Maushart, The Winter of Our Disconnect

In this chapter, Maushart discusses the harsh realities of being without modern technological conveniences. Battling her teens disbelief, Maushart made the choice to disconnect largely for her children: “I wanted my kids to experience this… to enlarge themselves. To discover themselves. To become human beings more fully alive, in the Waldenesque words of Saint Irenaeus.” The current generation of children are the first to grow up truly surround by the buzz and glow of technology. Though TVs and radios have been around awhile, home computers and cell phones (especially for children’s use) weren’t popularized until the mid-nineties. Even these technological advancements were confined; internet use was restricted to a hardline connection and mobile phones allowed us to talk more conveniently, but that was about it. Total connectivity at all times was not an option, but it is now. Kids today don’t know anything else; most of them can’t comprehend true silence because they’ve never heard it.

Maushart references the book Born Digital, which uses the term “Digital Native” to describe “the first generation born and raised completely wired” (I don’t know about you, but this phrase stirs illusions of some disturbing science fiction thriller in my mind). This generation is “no more frightened by new media than they are by a new pair of running shoes. They just jump right in and start sprinting.” But they’ve known nothing else, so why would they act any differently? Why would they question a world without technology when they have only been swaddled in its comforting embrace?

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the winter of our disconnect: chapter 1

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“Ultimately, the answer is not to take away the hammer, but to see that it is used for more than bashing away at things. To ensure our children free their hands–and their heads– to take up other tools, too.” – Susan Maushart, The Winter of Our Disconnect

I recently started reading this book (I’ll spare you the full subtitle – you can click on the link above to see the listing on Amazon) and am enjoying it even more than expected. Aside from writing about a topic in which I’m extremely interested, Maushart has a light-hearted, satirical writing style that makes the book thought-provoking and hilarious.

The introduction and first chapter discuss, in essence, the author’s family and what led her to disconnect them. “At ages fourteen, fifteen and eighteen, my daughters and my son don’t use media. They inhabit media. And they do so exactly as fish in a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there.” Maushart ruminates over the vast differences between her generation and her children’s when interacting with technology. She paints a picture of what her family was becoming: a room full of detached individuals illuminated by screens. Though she had considered a “full-scale digital detox” before, rereading Thoreau’s Walden seemed to push her over the edge.

Maushart discusses how technology is affecting our lives, most specifically the lives of younger generations like her children who’ve known nothing else. “Children of all ages cross boundaries into adult territory like never before, and they do so because their parents have invited them to, whether consciously or not… But more subversive than any of their incursions into adult time or space, I would argue, is our children’s heightened sense of entitlement to information–promoted and protected by a Digital Bill of Rights under whose binding authority family life is being radically rewired.”

The book isn’t solely narrative; it also includes numerous facts about media use. “Today, the average American child spends almost as much time online as he or she does sleeping.” I would probably have guessed as much, but this statistic is still staggering.

So far I’ve found The Winter of Our Disconnect to be a nice blend of personal experience and substantiated facts. I can’t say enough good things about Maushart’s eloquent yet hilarious account of her family’s adventure into a technology-free home, and I’m excited to continue reading.