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Involuntary Social Media Fast

"Made it home," I texted Karl after driving the kids back from my parents house.
"Check your email when you get the chance. Love." He texted back.
I gasped and felt like my stomach just fell out. I texted back:
"Oh my goodness I left my laptop at my parents house. Just realized when you said that. Crap." (my very strong and rarely used expletive.)
"Well bummer," he replied, knowing the implications--I don't have a smart-phone. He does, but he was out of town and would be for another several days. My laptop is my only computer. So now I'm home alone without access to the internet. It felt equivalent to losing electricity and having to function by candle-light.
This feeling was magnified by the fact that I had just spent several days at my parents house--with no wireless internet for my computer--while he was gone. I had set my email to give an out-of-office response, letting people know, "Really, I won't be checking this. Like at all." I knew this would prevent people feeling ignored, but I also knew that my inbox would be really backed up when I returned. Unfortunately, I forgot to post such notice on facebook or twitter, so those messages would appear totally ignored.
I comtemplated loading my 3 kids back in the car...after drive back to my parents house so I could retrieve the computer. They don't live THAT far...what's another 3 hours in the car today? But the whining chorus of the drive home echoed in my ears, and I decided against it.
The next day, I contemplated again, but the kids' reunion with their new Christmas toys thrilled them so much, I hadn't the heart to do it. My mom offered to drive it to me. I knew she had so much work to catch up on, I refused. We attempted plans to rendezvous mid-week, but they fell through. Oh well, what's a few more days? I could wait until the weekend.

And that's why I spent 3 weeks away from social media.

Here's what I gleaned from the experience, positive and negative:

1. Positive. I accomplished more at home in the mornings if I'm not online. Duh. Since homeschool began, I stopped checking first thing in the morning, but when the kids take a break mid-morning, I'd usually dive in to answer emails, "like" people's statuses, retweet encouraging statements, etc.
2. Positive. My focus stayed on the kids, and therefore my response to them was gentler. I used to call it "efficient" to get some computer work done while the kids watched Veggie Tales, but if the show ended a couple of minutes before I had completed my task, then I would attempt to keep working. Inevitably, one of them would offend another in some way and my response half the time would come from irritation that they were interrupting me. When my secondary focus (computer) was taken out of the equation, I could more selflessly parent and discipline them with correct motives.
3. Neutral. Similarly, the people in my presence received more attention while those far away received no attention. Now, I'm not one of those people who has a face-to-face conversation while also searching imdb to find the actor whose name escapes me at the moment (hopefully this will not change if I ever get a smart phone), BUT, I do devote several hours a week to ministry over the internet. Since I'm currently wrestling with this balance, I'm calling this experience: neutral.
4. Negative. Not having the computer as a means of communication is annoying--on both ends. People would say, "Did you see my post?" Sorry, no. "Are you coming? Did you get the evite?" Nope. Facebook events--didn't see those either. Some people felt ignored. Others, knowing the situation, didn't take it personally, but it was a nuissance not being able to discuss over email/look at attachments, etc. And when I got the computer back, it took me days to catch up on all the correspondence. This is the normal standard of communicating--to completely withdraw makes it difficult for all involved. (Even the hand-written correspondence that I needed to do, couldn't be mailed because my address book is on my computer--agh!)
5. Negative. Acquiring information was difficult and in some situations impossible. Here's how it complicated a normally simple situation: I needed to find tap shoes for my daughter. Because of her foot's rapid growth rate, I usually buy used or borrow. The first thing I would normally do is post to my facebook friends: "Anyone have girls size 13 tap shoes I can borrow?" If this didn't pan out, Craigslist would be my go-to place. Hmm...what did people do before fb and craigslist? So I revert back to the old days--word of mouth from friends. They mention a few places...they can't exactly remember the name or exactly remember the location. Normally I would google. Hmm...what did people do before google? A phonebook? Karl puts those straight in the recycling bin because we NEVER use them, and besides, any place in the phonebook is probably not going to have THAT great of a bargain. Even if I attempted the vicinity of the places mentioned by my friends, I am notorious for getting lost. I typically use a gps, google maps, AND landmarks from friends, and I STILL make a wrong turn 50% of the time. It is my tragic flaw. {Our staff team came up with "Super-powers" and "tragic flaws" several years ago. At first my "tragic flaw" was "overuse of the word 'detrimental.'" But I've changed it. Really it IS detrimental how much I get lost! But I digress...} So reverting back to pre-internet ways and buying a road map at the 7-11 would not help me. I just put off the task of finding tap shoes until I got my computer back.

Conclusions: Unless I choose to live in a remote village and separate myself from the modern world and the people therein, my computer is a necessary part of functioning in community. However, I can spend less hours a day on it, delay selected responses without repercussions, and have the rewards of a more pleasant, present time with my family. I've slipped nicely into a schedule of reading my email while the kids eat lunch, (after a full, hands-on morning of home-schooling). I only respond to urgent ones at the table, and do other tasks in the late afternoon. My facebook and twitter browsing has lessened; I read friends' blogs in my leisure as I would a magazine, and I write a blog post when I feel inspired. :)

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