Tuesday, July 13, 2010

30-Day Trek: Revenge of the Gadgets

“Consumer culture actively blurs the line between the first set of things we need to sustain our lives and the second and third set of things that weighs us down and saps our energy.”

When we first read today’s Trek reflection we had a hard time relating because we aren’t really into “gadgets” per se. At second thought, our culture is full of gadgets in a quest for convenience.  It’s easy to see these “gadgets” as necessities to everyday life when they really are not.

For example, we might say we need a computer but many people around the globe survive without one. We use gadgets like a Vitamix blender or our Kitchenaid mixer on a regular basis. If we use a gadget every day, does that justify having it?

We certainly enjoy our gadgets but want to think more carefully about what we buy and when we make the choice to spend time with our gadgets and not with our family and friends. The computer is probably the biggest the “gadget” that consumes our time. Since I’m writer, I could justify computer use for my job. My husband uses the computer to research and grade papers as a teacher. He could justify his computer use too. There are certainly times when we both need to get off Facebook or stop reading the Crossfit web site and actually play with our kids. Maybe the term “gadget” should be widened to make us think about the things that we prioritize above relationships with our community.

During Lent, I did a little experiment. I forced myself to take Sundays off from Facebook. I use Facebook in some very practical ways – to communicate quickly and more frequently with friends, to broadcast to a large group of people at a time, to trade services, etc. I love the way I’ve been able to connect with friends across time zones and continents because of Facebook. I also know that Facebook can dangerously suck away my time with my family if I let it. After taking Sundays off for Lent, I discovered I was able to rest in a different way on those days. Instead of retreating to the computer, I would actually retreat to read a book, take a nap or stroll with my family. Now I take that break every Sunday.

What makes something designed to help me cross the line into weighing me down?

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