The verdict is in: we're hopelessly addicted to our digital devices -- so much so, in fact, that some psychologists are pushing to have "internet addiction" broadly classified as a clinical disorder. But isn't it really affirmation that we can't get enough of? We want people to acknowledge us, interact with us, consider our opinions, laugh at our jokes and take part in our conversations. And these are all legitimate, natural wants and needs, mind you -- although we may seek the approval and affirmation of acquaintances, colleagues and classmates less if we received it from our families more.
Did you know that:
- 65 percent of North Americans spend more time with their computer than with their spouse?
- 45 percent of workers say they can't go more than 15 minutes without an interruption?
- Over 50 percent of people leave their mobile phones on when they go to bed?
- Workers report that they leave their mobile phones on during movies, church and even sex?
Mobile devices, computers and social media are wonderful things indeed. They've transformed our lives and our world in countless positive ways. But make no mistake: while we're more connected than ever (and maybe because we're more "connected" than ever), we're more disconnected than ever from our families.
Ever texted your child in his or her room to tell them that dinner is ready? Are instant messages replacing conversations at the dinner table? Are you talking to your kids about their "status," or reading about it on Facebook?
Because I'm sure this rings true to more of us than it should, I'm issuing a challenge today to dads across the country: disconnect.
That's right. On June 19, Father's Day, disconnect your digital device for 24 hours and reconnect with your family. You'll survive. I promise. In fact, I suspect you'll be shocked at how much that quality time with your family can jolt those dormant relationships, how much you can download in a short time, and how much you've been missed.
Here are two simple things you can do to make it happen:
- Before going to bed the night before Father's Day, check your email one final time, turn off your mobile device and put it in another room. You may get the shakes, but you'll get over it.
- Plan the day well. Alcoholics are very susceptible during periods of boredom, and it's no different with an Internet junkie. Plan a day of special activities with your family so that you'll be less inclined or tempted to check email or go online. If the family takes you out, leave the mobile device at home! (You may be shocked, but yes, there was a time in ancient days when we actually left the house without a phone.)
Remember, your kids watch your behavior more than they listen to your words. And when they see you unable to disconnect from email, text messages and Twitter, you're telling them that what's on your phone is more important to you than they are.
So, think about how much time you spend online relative to how much time you spend face-to-face with the people you love you the most. And, at the very least, for 24 hours on Father's Day, think about which connection is the most important to you: the one to the world, or the one to your family?
Follow Phil Cooke, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/philcooke