All I want for Christmas is to unplug

With the holidays approaching will your family feast be lit by tall tapers or the glow of iPhones? Here are some tips to unplug and enjoy the commune of family and friends.

redit: Lars Ploughmann / Flickr Creative Commons
redit: Lars Ploughmann / Flickr Creative Commons

BOISE, Idaho, November 11, 2015 – With the year-end holidays fast approaching, now seems to be a good time to reflect on how technology is affecting the quality of your personal relationships.  Traditionally, the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas are events that bring family and friends close together.

Technology has changed everything we do in our workplaces as well as our homes. Millions of people are instantly connected most anywhere on the planet. We can now do everything better, bigger, faster, ten times over and more efficiently than anyone else ever has in the history of mankind.

Great. But, wait a minute.

What is the personal cost of using technology? Is our obsessive use of technology wreaking havoc on our personal relationships? This is a question many people are asking, but only each individual person can answer for themselves.

Photo used under Creative Commons License -
Photo used under Creative Commons License –

Most of us look forward to spending time with friends and family at the holidays, so now is a good time to start planning ahead.

How are you going to use technology in the coming days? Are you going to take time away from the internet so you can spend your holiday hours talking to your loved ones in person? Or, are you going to go overboard, by working excessive hours, or spending all your time at home on the computer or cell phone? Is your cell phone or iPad going to be a fun tool for sharing photos of events, or are you going to be obsessive about using them?

Here are some basic rules you can follow to prevent cell phone/iPad/laptop overuse:

  • Don’t carry your phone with you all the time
  • Make personal calls instead of just texting
  • Set aside specific time each day to be off the computer
  • Designate family time without the use of cell phones
  • Do outside activities and enjoy the moments
  • Plan dates with your spouse/significant other where you are not connected
  • Avoid being on the computer for long hours
  • Develop hobbies that are not computer related
  • Take regular breaks during the day to be offline

These are some good ideas if you would like to devote your holiday time to family and friends while putting your internet connection on the back burner. This is a personal decision you can make before the holidays arrive, so you can experience these events firsthand and enjoy them more.

We have all become used to the convenience of our smartphones, tablets, iPads and laptops to do almost anything we want to do. The millennial generation especially has happily embraced all the exciting new expensive cell phones and hundreds of the latest online apps. The world we live in has been transformed by computers and it will continue to do so for the coming generations.

The workloads at many computer jobs can be so heavy that many people have to rely on things like yoga, aromatherapy and  or sound therapy tapes to help reduce their stress levels.

Bu, outside of the workplace, how is technology changing the way we relate to each other?  Are people communicating more often and better, or do we sometimes having more difficulty communicating because of a misunderstood text message or impersonal email? We all know what it’s like to be waiting anxiously for a text message, before knowing what to do next.

The real question is, are we more connected to our computers and phones than we are to each other?

We seem to be a civilization spoiled by internet speed and convenience. We expect instant results. It has become easier to send a text message than to pick up the phone. In order to save money and time, emails have become the norm for establishing business relationships, more so than  personal meetings.

We value the number of social shares as much as the content on every website.

We hold online videotaped podcasts, in place of a live meeting.

We fax our resumes to hundreds of prospective employers, who must sort through the faceless pile of inquiries. We share ourselves with the world by creating websites and Google profiles that show off our interests and talents. We use social media like crazy to establish as many digital “relationships” as possible.

It’s not that technology is evil, but there are questions about the overuse or abuse of technology in daily lives. People are expressing concerns about relationships and how technology impacts them. A new movement has begun which is attracting attention. People are talking about the importance of “unplugging” from technology, to get back to the basics of living, like spending time enjoying the company of friends or paying more attention to your children or spouse. These are good ideas and we should follow them before we all become so far consumed by our obsession for online information that we don’t know how to stop it.

There is also a question of cell phone addiction.

Pew research says that nearly two-thirds of all Americans own a smartphone, and 64 percent check their phones for messages, even when they don’t hear them ringing.  Nearly half of all users admit their phone is something they can’t live without. A recent study by Nokia found that people often check their phones an average of every six minutes and as often as 150 times a day.

Cell phone addiction has become so commonplace, that a new term, “nomophobia” has been created to describe it. The symptoms are similar to other addictions, like spending obsessive amounts of time and money on it, and expressing feelings of inadequacy, anxiety or panic when it is taken away.

We all know there are problems, because it is so evident everywhere you look. Tragically more and more car accidents are being caused by people who can’t put their cell phones down.  We all stop to use our phones when we are in the middle of doing something else. Many people have become so used to texting, that they rarely answer their phones.

To find out what our friends and family are doing, we check Facebook.

Online dating sites have become so popular, you can just click on a “meet me” button, or send a digital rose to someone you are interested in. You can hide your profile when you are dating someone, and then show it again if the relationship doesn’t last. If you don’t like what a person says to you, you can block messages from them, or just delete the conversation. Not very intimate.

Are our computers and phones becoming more important than our personal relationships? Are people ignoring their partners or children just to look at social media or check their email? Are we becoming insensitive or lazy about personal interactions? Are your teenagers connecting online as a way of disconnecting from where they are? These are warning signs that something is wrong.

Couples are having trouble talking directly to each other because each of them is busy texting their friends and checking their social media accounts. Children can’t get off their tablets, to listen to their parents. People are keeping their cell phones so close at hand that they can’t sit at a table or eat at a restaurant or sleep at night without having them nearby. Many young people carry their phones in their pockets and develop a phantom tingling sensation, thinking they are missing out on a phone notification.

A new term, “pphubbing”,  (cell phone partner snubbing), describes when two people are together, but each is on their cell phone, so they aren’t talking. Therapists are hearing about “cell phone envy”, where a person in a relationship feels alone because their partner spends excessive amounts of time on the internet.

Another term, FOMO (fear of missing out) causes people to stay connected to social media sites.

Computers and phones are used to keep secrets from one another by couples who cheat. Some individuals keep their computers in separate rooms, so they can visit online porno sites or have online relationships. I knew a woman whose husband emailed her asking for a divorce. Unbelievable.

When technology is used in abusive ways, it becomes detrimental to our personal relationships, and it is time to put the brakes on the situation and make new rules.

We can all start taking simple steps to prevent our technology habits from disrupting our personal relationships. If we let technology become more of a priority than spending time with those we hold dear, we are sacrificing too much. We are not experiencing life the way it should be experienced. We are abusing ourselves, as well as those we care about, and it’s something we should seriously avoid.

If every person started taking steps on a daily basis to “unplug” from technology periodically, maybe we can all have happier, more fulfilling lives and remember to find the joys in each moment. We can remember what it’s like to experience life firsthand by getting off the phone or computer. We all need to use technology, but it should be in healthy ways, not dangerous, deceitful, inconsiderate or careless ways. Online satisfaction can never measure up to the passions, struggles and triumphs of what real life has to offer.


Karen Bresnahan is a freelance journalist, photographer and artist from Boise, Idaho. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Photography from the University of Idaho and owns Idaho Naturals Desertscapes, KB Lifelines Positive Quotes, and Romantic Idaho Weddings.

She enjoys writing about a variety of topics like motivation, health and fitness and building positive relationships. You can see more of her writing at or contact her on twitter @idaho1111.


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