Do you think it’s possible to unplug?

betty ming liu Food, Relationships, Writing how-to's 11 Comments

The other night when my daughter Gabi and I were out to dinner, she scolded me for taking pictures of our food and instantly sharing them on social media. “This is the most anti-social meal I’ve ever had,” complained my 17-year-old.

Since that moment, I’ve been rethinking the insanity of my life. After all, she had a good point.

We were in a really fabulous neighborhood Indian restaurant. When the samosa appetizer arrived, my reaction was: Wait! Don’t eat it yet! I need a shot of it on my iPhone! As I hit “send” to upload the picture to the photo-sharing website Instagram, she dug into the mashed potato delight wrapped in fried dough.

“This is delicious!” she said, munching away. “Aren’t you going to try it?”

In a second, hon, in a sec. The waiter had just set my drink on our table. It took a few minutes to style the pretty blue Bombay Gin cocktail for another Instagram shot. Meanwhile, my child glared at me as she continued to eat alone.

Is this any way for a mother to behave???!

The answer is obvious, especially since I’m writing to you from a feeling of total exhaustion. In addition to managing my basic daily life as a single working mom, there’s the time required for social media, which I enjoy. Actually, I don’t spend much time on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — I’m only on each site once or twice, every day or two. But then there’s blogging, which I also love. As for the endless emailing and constant texting, that’s just life.

Or is it?

Well, what if it all stopped? Not forever, mind you. Just for a little while, like a week or so.

The thought has crossed my mind because I will have a bunch of days off between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Since I really need to relax, I’ve started fantasizing about going back to my personal Stone Age. Imagine, a few days of minimal interaction with devices….

I don’t know if I could — or should — actually unplug. If any of you have tried, I could use some advice. Help!

In a way, the re-education has begun in our home. Up until now, I’ve been the one yelling at Gabi to put that damn iPhone away during meals. But last night, we got in the car to meet her daddy for sushi. She took the driver’s seat, both literally and in what she said next.

“No taking pictures of the food at dinner,” she ordered, as she steered the car to the restaurant.

“Okay,” I said meekly.

Even though my fingers were twitching to shoot our array of appetizers (oshinko pickles, fried oysters, wasabi red snapper, vegetarian dumplings, clam soup) the iPhone stayed in my pocket for entire meal.  The restraint was worth it since my ex-husband and our kid spent the next two hours having a very nice conversation instead.  :)


Comments 11

  1. Yeah, it’s wise to unplug, even for a few hours, or days. There was an article on Conde Nast Traveller about vacations at places where there is no cell reception, email, etc. And people go through withdrawal haha, but then you become much more present. Apparently there’s also studies that show that your brain functions better, as in your ability to focus, after you take a little break from all the multitasking, not to mention the light from the electronics apparently also affects our production of melatonin. Question to ask ourselves, is what are we afraid of? That we’ll miss something? Or that no one will miss us? :P By unplugging, we really reconnect live with what/who matters most. It looks like you had a great experience of that at dinner! :) It’s all about knowing our priorities, which isn’t always easy to remember. “Busy isn’t always productive.”

  2. Agreed! I was watching a movie last night and poured myself a glass of wine and was very content…then all of a sudden I caught myself picking up my iPhone and scanning through Pinterest! I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t just enjoy what was in front of me, because clearly Pinterest was way more important! I think that revealed something about what I really hold as a priority in my life right now! So instead I put my phone down and went to take a bubble bath and do my nails :)

  3. Post

    Hey, don’t I get any points for working on my social media skills???! :)
    That’s why I got into all this stuff in the first place. When I was teaching, I felt it was important to keep up. Then I started to like all the online interaction.

    mj, food photos can be really pretty and satisfying. But maybe it’s time to stop doing it if I’m eating with people who will get annoyed. Promise, I won’t do it when we eat out!

    Skye, that’s the shortest comment you’ve ever left on this blog. It makes me realize how much I need to unplug. I am losing perspective.

    Yes, lee, Gabs is pretty smart. But I must say, she is on her iPhone a lot. The thing is, she knows I can’t stand the way teens check their text s and FB during meals. Now I have to respect her wishes for no photos. Fair is fair.

    Katherine, you’re going to the next level on this. The multitasking is SICK. It’s not even that productive. Thanks for mentioning.

    Jenna, so helpful for you to leave an example of the good life — and the things that take us away from the moment. I’ve been thinking about a bath tonight too. Here in NY right now, it’s gray, cold, raining and ugly.

    Charlotte, another vote for nature as part of unplugging! You’re reinforcing the message. Ok. More nature. Thanks. :)

  4. Post

    Skye, thanks for spotlighting Katherine’s comment. We are moving on the same wave length here…

    One of my Twitter friends tweeted me a link to this great blog post:

    In it, blogger and avid tweeter Adam Brault writes about quitting Twitter for one month. He said it changed his life, helped him get more quiet. I love how he describes Twitter as “outsourced schizophrenia,” too many fragments voices in his head.

    He says he used to think that time was the most valuable thing he had. But after the experiment, he realized that his most valuable resource is “uninterrupted thought.”

    This guy also periodically shuts down his email too. That’s also a tempting thought!

  5. Betty,
    I think Gabby is right. Unless there is a reason to snap a photo you shouldn’t do so. I have really enjoyed working in environments where cell phones, cameras and other devices are banned on the job site (except for ones provided ) and where you leave your work at work.

    I am reminded of the movie Johnny Mnemonic. One element of the plot was “nerve attenuation syndrome” (NAS), a plague ravaging mankind due to the over-reliance on technology. I believe that there are things that are either too secret or to sacred to be photographed.

  6. Pingback: Why I’m unplugging for the next two weeks | betty ming liu

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