Detours in Life

Pentecost 116 – 125

Mega post #7


In a matter of less than three minutes my cell phone died.  I had just been using it and had checked the battery so I know it indicated the power was at one hundred percent.  With young adults in the area, I did the intelligent thing and contacted them.  “Just do a cold boot” was the advice I received.  A “cold boot”?  What is that?  And how does this knowledge get imparted to people?  Why am I not on that list to get such stuff?


As mentioned in my last post I spent several days recently at a retreat.  I was unplugged from the world of cell phones and electronic devices.  I could mot quickly google the answer.  I actually had to use my memory bank to retrieve information when in verbal discourse face to face with someone.   None of those acronyms that have replaced conversation;  I was expected to actually use complete words and sentences. 


My period of being unplugged was different.  At night I found myself getting out of bed to plug in my phone before I remembered I did not have it.  I was actually homesick for my activity tracker.  Usually I am arguing with it but suddenly I missed it and wondered how many steps I was walking.  Since the retreat was on a mountainside I soon realized the number was not as important as the fact that I was walking… up and down and all around.  Without the weight of my phone or something around my wrist, I actually felt free with little anxiety.


In 2012 Michigan State University released finding of a study they conducted.  Their conclusion was this:  Using multiple forms of media at the same time — such as playing a computer game while watching TV — is linked to symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Michigan State University’s Mark Becker, lead investigator on the study, said he was surprised to find such a clear association between media multitasking and mental health problems. What’s not yet clear is the cause.


“We don’t know whether the media multitasking is causing symptoms of depression and social anxiety, or if it’s that people who are depressed and anxious are turning to media multitasking as a form of distraction from their problems,” said Becker, assistant professor of psychology.  While overall media use among American youth has increased 20 percent in the past decade, the amount of time spent multitasking with media spiked 120 percent during that period, Becker said.


For the study, which appears in the journal “Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking”, Becker and fellow MSU researchers Reem Alzahabi and Christopher Hopwood surveyed 319 people on their media use and mental health.  Participants were asked how many hours per week they used two or more of the primary forms of media, which include television, music, cell phones, text messaging, computer and video games, web surfing and others. For the mental health survey, the researchers used well-established measures, although the results do not reflect a clinical diagnosis.


Becker said future research should explore cause and effect. If it turns out media multitasking is causing depression and anxiety, recommendations could be made to alleviate the problem, he said.  On the other hand, if depressed or anxious people are turning to media multitasking, that might actually help them deal with their problems. It could also serve as a warning sign that a youngster is becoming depressed or anxious.  “Whatever the case, it’s very important information to have,” Becker said. “This could have important implications for understanding how to minimize the negative impacts of increased media multitasking.”


What I find interesting is that taking a detour from such media devices is generally not considered an answer.  Clearly these electronic tools are here to stay and everyone presumes they will be a forever presence in our lives.  The question is not if they are beneficial or healthy but how to incorporate them into our living with the least amount of detrimental impact.


As I mentioned, my detour from the everyday during my retreat was in the woods on a mountain.  For those participating, nature was a welcome distraction and way to enjoy our time away from the electronic world or timelines and scheduling, constant media updates and concerns.  Not all of us can go away, however.  Why not take a walk around your neighborhood but this time, choose a different path.  Gather some rocks or leaves along your way to compare once home again.  Even leaves from the same tree can be different and at this time of the year in the northern regions of the western hemisphere the colors of the leaves are amazing and varied.


We often fail to realize how limited our actual contact with other human beings is when we are tied to electronic devices.  By unplugging, you can go to a coffee shop or volunteer at a local charity.  Connecting to others is one of the best ways to not only combat anxiety and depression but to feel better about yourself.  By turning off a few devices, you might just turn on your self-esteem.


One of the limitations of using electronic devices is that everything is right in front of us.  We become receivers and are no longer transmitters.  By taking the time to read a book, play a board game,  or do a craft project we reconnect with our imagination and explore new possibilities.  Perfection is not the goal here and the effort makes it beautiful.  When we do this we remember to appreciate the journey and not be fixated on the destination.


Dr. Kathleen Trainor, a well-known psychotherapist and member of the Harvard University faculty,  reminds us that learning requires human interaction”.  Developmentally, babies, from the time they are born, seek contact with human faces. They learn language through human interaction. The value of connecting with others comes from the early, loving connection to significant others. Social, non-verbal language development depends on the experience of relating with others.”


I will of course get my phone working again.  For today, though, I will stop and smell the flowers, appreciate the beauty of nature and engage in conversation with a living breathing person.  I will get some chores done that often get forgotten while I am online and take some time to simply be.  Tomorrow I hope to be back up to date with everything working but today…today I will follow a detour called unplugged.  I have a feeling that I might just find myself along the way.







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