Advice on How to Unplug

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In her interview with Bill this week, developmental psychologist Sherry Turkle said it’s important for our well-being to limit the use of tech devices. The idea is to prevent our constant access to technology from crowding out real life engagement and experiences.

Irony alert! We turned to our Facebook audience for tips on how to get family and friends to disconnect from devices, social media and the internet so that quality time is possible.

The following is some of their advice and tips.

Dinner is sacred. Many people, like Lesley Potter Groetsch, said the dining room needs to be a device-free zone. “We have dinner together every night as a family and all devices must be off until everyone is finished. It’s a small portion of the day, but we are consistent with it and it has become a family ritual,” Potter Groetsch said. And Candace Brawner takes it a step further with her children. “No games with guests visiting, during meals or before homework,” she said.

Educate the family. A number of people seem to be asking friends and family to limit their contact. Jeff Kohut said: “I teach family members to call only if it is REALLY important. If not, everything else will be processed in due time!”

Put some skin in the game. As Claire Russell suggests when out to eat with friends or family: “Everyone puts their phone in a basket and the first one to remove it pays for lunch. The second person splits the bill, etc. I’ve seen that work!”

Demand attention. Sandy Brazas Keese tells her friends to switch off. “Before I sit down in a restaurant with friends, I ask them politely to shut off their phones for a while as I remind them I want their uninterrupted, appreciated conversation,” she said. Larry Kirby has found his own way to send a clear message: “I calmly walk away without a word if someone flips through their phone as I’m trying to talk to them.”

Collect the phones. Peggy Rosier collects phones when people enter her home. “We have a basket on the table by the front door with a sign that says: ‘Place your devices here so we can socialize while we visit with each other.’”

Develop self-discipline. People are becoming more self-aware of their device usage and are drawing their own lines in the sand. Michele Kennedy says she makes it a rule to “never use Facebook or text when socializing with friends … I’m conscious of my usage and need to unplug regularly.”

Get a hobby. Kathleen Heady turns off tech devices to develop her interests. “I make sure that I keep up with non-tech hobbies, like playing the piano and knitting,” she said.

Get away. A number of our fans say one of the many benefits of a vacation is the ability to be phone free. Carol Rush Smouse said: “Once a year I go on a retreat to Shrine Mont in a mountainous area of Virginia where cell phone reception and Wi-Fi is so spotty, it is just better to shut them off. We spend time hiking, building campfires, talking, visiting local wineries and just enjoying life. I wish I could do it more often.”

Talk to the boss. Cheryle Wilson says if she were in charge, employees would power down during professional meetings because people are using their devices all the time. “Either the meeting should not be taking place or those folks on their devices shouldn’t be at the meeting.”

Embrace your partner. A nice idea from Bradley Harper: “I turn off my smart phone and kiss my wife. Repeat.”

We invite you to add your ideas to the mix.

Karin Kamp is a multimedia journalist and producer. She has produced content for, NOW on PBS and WNYC public radio and worked as a reporter for Swiss Radio International. She also helped launch The Story Exchange, a site dedicated to women's entrepreneurship.
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