In this Mother’s Day special feature, Readings’ Chris Gordon talks to Susan Maushart about her funny, engaging and thought-provoking new book, The Winter of Our Disconnect – about her household experiment in going cold turkey with technology for six months, and the impact it had on her family’s life.
There are many elements of your book that I enjoyed. In particular I was pleased not to be reading a self-help book or a discourse on what’s wrong with the younger generation. I liked that your experience made me laugh out loud at times. Did you do that on purpose?
Thanks! I also find it tiresome to read the usual tirades about ‘young people today’. And I was convinced that one of my strengths in addressing this topic was that I am NOT a Luddite, but rather the reverse. At the same time I am as aware as any parent of the potential of technology to disrupt and sort of manhandle relationships...So the dual perspective was what kept me honest. And the truth is not only stranger than fiction, it’s usually funnier.
My favourite parts of your book were your diary entries that recorded the internal rumblings of family life. How did the kids react to that?
LOL! I’m glad you said that because those are the parts that I have been most nervous about...Some of the entries reveal pretty intimate family details and of course I am so close to it all, it’s hard to judge its effectiveness or even appropriateness occasionally. As for the kids’ responses, the truth is they haven’t read the book yet and I suspect probably won’t for some time. They were all willing to trust my judgment...After I bribed them of course!
At which point did you realise that you were doing something right for you and your kids. Was it the sleeping patterns?
I think it was that night during Bootcamp Blackout when Bill wandered out to the deck with his saxophone – the one he’d stopped playing for nearly two years – and played that soulful rendition of Summertime, literally by moonlight. This from a kid who’d been spending the bulk of his spare time hitting cyber-dwarves with digital axes...
I was fascinated with the various national and international research studies you used to back up your own findings – or not. I enjoyed the global element this lent the book. Which study outcome was the most incredulous to you?
It would have to be that very recent study out of Stanford about the myth of multitasking: the one that showed definitively that all that palaver about our kids having, quote unquote, different brains is pure propaganda...or more likely parental wishful thinking
And of course, lastly I have to ask: I wonder now it is over whether you have slipped back into old patterns? Is your iPhone still next to your bed?
Busted! I am typing my answers to these excellent questions on my iPhone right now... and I am also in bed!! But our relationship has changed indelibly nonetheless. I have definitely learned how to ‘separate’...and I’m even dating other devices now....