Lani's Reviews > The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone) Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale

The Winter of Our Disconnect by Susan Maushart
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Feb 11, 11

bookshelves: computers, kindle, non-fiction, psychology
Read from February 07 to 09, 2011

There was a certain silliness in reading this book on a Kindle and an iPhone...

Maushart embarks on a 6 month journey "without technology" (sort of), and more impressively she brings her 3 teenagers along with her. The experiment isn't exactly a total media blackout - computers are allowed outside of the home, the kids keep their mobile phones, and stereos are alright - but that isn't really the point.

Maushart's realization that she has used technology to stave off her homesickness for New York isn't particularly interesting. She often glosses over her own reactions to the experiment while crowing over her children. Maybe she's not able to tell what changed about herself, or perhaps she's just not as totally reliant as her children are.

But it's the kids changing habits and Maushart's observations about "Digital Natives" that are the most interesting. I think I'm somewhere on the cusp of this - email, IM, and mobile phones were becoming common as I was entering high school, and I'm in IT now and thoroughly encroached in Twitter (but not FB). But I can't relate to all of the 'growing up with social media' that is discussed in the book.

I'm pretty happy with the fact that I wasn't available for cyber-bullying and that I only had to deal with my classmates in class for the most part. Which isn't to say that I was unhappy in school, but that I'm glad I didn't have to be exposed to everyone all the time. The idea that life is now 'lived on a stage' is pretty accurate, and I can see how it can warp the perceptions and personalities of people, particularly those still trying to form identities.

And that's not even accounting for the time spent (wasted?) online rather than on other hobbies. As Maushart discovered during the experiment, musicians are distracted by video games, cooks never make it to the kitchen because they're updating their Facebook status. Her children started reading more, her son picked his saxophone up and joined a band, and her youngest daughter caught up on the sleep debt she's been accruing for years.

A small thing that is only briefly addressed, but I found fascinating was the observation that we don't set schedules like we used to. When I make dinner plans it's 'about 6:30, text me' or 'I'll let you know when I get off the bus'. As someone subject to public transportation, text messaging and mobile phones ARE a lifesaver, but I also see so many of my friends as total flakes that are never on time and can use technology as a crutch. (Full disclosure: I'm perpetually 5-10 minutes late to everything myself!)

I can't say this book was spectacular, but it was revealing. Some of it was intriguing because I don't experience the teenage social development stuff (and I'm only a few years older!), some was eye-opening because I could see my own tendencies. It's a pleasant and easy read, and I'd recommend it if you're interested in thinking about the technology we live with and how it affects us and our kids.
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