The Winter of Our Disconnect

Susan Maushart

The Winter of Our Disconnect
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The Winter of Our Disconnect

Susan Maushart

For any parent who’s ever IM-ed their child to the dinner table - or yanked the modem from its socket in a show of primal parental rage - this account of one family’s self-imposed exile from the Information Age will leave you ROFLing with recognition. But it will also challenge you to take stock of your own family connections, to create a media ecology that encourages kids - and parents - to thrive. When Susan Maushart first decided to pull the plug on all electronic media at home, she realised her children would have sooner volunteered to go without food, water or hair products. At ages 14, 15 and 18, her daughters and son didn’t use media. They inhabited media. Susan’s experiment with her family was a major success and she found that having less to communicate with, her family is communicating more. At the simplest level, The Winter of Our Disconnect is the story of how one family survived six months of wandering through the desert, digitally speaking, and the lessons learned about themselves and technology along the way. At the same time, their story is a channel to a wider view - into the impact of new media on the lives of families, into the very heart of the meaning of home.

Review

At night at my home, you can see little lights and you can hear a quiet hum. It is my family’s daytime tools charging overnight. There are white cords collecting dust in the corners. It seemed to happen so quickly; I don’t remember making a conscious decision to live this way. Look, I know this is not a unique observation: there are trillions of papers to be read on this exact topic. For goodness sake, one can Google the topic!

However, feminist author and columnist Dr. Susan Maushart, a mother of three teenagers, does something more than comment in her fourth book, The Winter of Our Disconnect. Maushart switches off her home and writes about it – longhand, in her diary. In this, I mean she pulls the plug on all her and her kids’ daytime tools for six months. No electronic media: no telephone, no email, no television, no iPods.

This book is not a rant against one generation’s lifestyle to another, younger, generation. Maushart thought all their lifestyles needed a shake-up. She couldn’t afford to take her kids away from their gadgets, so she took the gadgets away. This is what she finds: her children thrive. Their marks at school increase, their friendships increase, they eat meals together, they sleep more, they read books – for goodness sake – they play Monopoly together! Maushart backs up her findings with case studies of research results. I’m interested in this. Already my kids seem dependent on quick dissemination of information – and they’re not even teenagers yet.

What is refreshing is that Maushart has not written a didactic book and nor does she believe we should shift direction. Rather, The Winter of Our Disconnect is a reminder of the impact of modern media on family life. (Like motherhood, it seems a balancing act is needed.) Again, Maushart (think of her feminist classic Wifework) has written a book that articulates the concerns that have been humming in the background of my home.

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