The Winter of Our Disconnect: How One Family Pulled the Plug and Lived to Tell/text/Tweet the Tale by Susan Maushart
|The Winter of Our Disconnect: How One Family Pulled the Plug and Lived to Tell/text/Tweet the Tale by Susan Maushart|
|Category: Home and Family|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: One family pulls the plug on their technology - what happened and the theory behind the effects. A thought-provoking read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: January 2012|
|Publisher: Profile Books|
Back in early 2009 Susan Maushart - a single mother of three teenagers - came to the conclusion that the family plugged into their workstations, TVs, DVD players, iPods and gaming consoles at the expense of normal relationships, or what we'll come to call Real Life. She included herself in this - her relationship with her iPhone was about the strongest she had outside of her children - and she decided that something drastic had to be done. So began the winter of our disconnect - six months without screens of any description, mobile phones or listening devices in the home. You think that’s not enough of a shock to the system? Nor did Susan - she started off with two weeks without any power in the home.
This could have been just a story of the six months of deprivation and all the amusing incidents which occurred because of it, but it's so much more than that. The stories are there - such as the son who thought that 'Susan.Maushart' was the correct way to write his mother's name - but there's also the theoretical background, the studies which have been done into the effects of all the devices which litter our homes and the extent to which they’ve invaded our lives. It’s all delivered with a light hand and a quirky, wry sense of humour but this book will give you plenty to think about.
I approached this book conscious of the fact that I was at one step removed - I'm a grandparent rather than a parent - but also as someone who is uneasy about her own dependence on a computer. I will tell you that it's my job and I’ll proudly tell you that I'm not on Facebook so that you'll realise that I'm not addicted, but the truth is actually the reverse. I'm deeply uneasy without access to the Internet - and email in particular - and a night spent in a hotel with no net access left me a gibbering wreck. I'm also the person who wrote a thank you letter by hand and found herself wondering why there wasn't an automatic spell check. This was a book which spoke to me personally.
The effects of The Experiment are told loosely in diary form, but it's not rigid and we frequently divert to consider in some depth the effect and the consequences of what happened. I was particularly interested in the discussion on boredom - which I’ve always thought of as a Bad Thing, but which is only so if you permit it to be anything other than a trigger for changes and action. Maushart is also frank about the downside, such as the four-figure bill for the land line phone or the fact that the vast amount of time freed up was not necessarily filled with something more useful - at least not immediately.
If you’re thinking about the question of 'screen' usage then this book is gold dust. It's anecdotal but backed with academic studies. As I read I was conscious that a lot of references were very current and I wondered if the book would have shelf life - in ten years will many people be that conscious of SpongeBob SquarePants - but then it struck me that in ten years' time we'll probably look back and wonder why we were so concerned about the situation. By then the screens will probably be implanted at birth.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to Bookbag.
For a look at how children used to fill their time you might enjoy The Lore of the Playground: The Children's World - Then and Now by Steve Roud. For another look at parenting styles we can recommend Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Winter of Our Disconnect: How One Family Pulled the Plug and Lived to Tell/text/Tweet the Tale by Susan Maushart at Amazon.com.
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