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Being a new mom has been an interesting experience. Spending all of your time caring for a baby changes your perspective on a lot of different things. One thing in particular it has opened my eyes to is how much media is inundating my life. See, as a new mom, I find it very hard to get out of the house much, which means that I crave spending time with people who have passed their first birthday (no offense Sam) more than ever. However, it seems like whenever I do get opportunities to get time with real people we’re generally sitting glued to the TV. Worse still often we waste time with real people by staring at computer screens, or cell phones, or listening to iPods. That face time that I am so anxious to have with other people is quickly wasted in a drone of media.
Another reason I am more aware of all the media around me is that I see how it affects a baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not allowing children to watch TV until they are 2 years old. They say that introducing this much media at such a young age contributes to ADD. Although Sam is not yet 6 months old I can already see how this is the case. He is already very drawn to technology (no surprise considering who his parents are) and is fascinated by watching the moving pictures on a TV screen or cell phone. While I enjoy seeing him be fascinated by these things, I can already see that by introducing him to these mediums so early on he expects to have entertainment at his disposal immediately and isn’t as inclined to be entertained by learning things about his environment as he ought to be.
I’ve never been an anti-media type person but I feel that right now we are drowning in a sea of media. Which is why when I read this article it really hit home. It reminded me of a program we did as a primary one year. They had a cool name for it which I can’t remember now, but what we did was give up TV for the month of September right up to General Conference. The idea being that it got us more in the mode of being ready for Conference. At the beginning of the month I thought it was the worst thing ever. A whole month without TV?! How would we ever make it?? But as the month went on I missed it less and less. In fact, after the month was over I found that I just didn’t watch TV as much ever again… until about my senior year of college after which my TV consumption has slowly been on the rise. Who would have thought that a simple program like that could have such a long lasting (although obviously not permanent) impact? That’s not to say that I hated TV or I never wanted to watch it, but what had once been almost an addiction had lost a lot of its appeal. I really liked it better when I was that way and would like to return to that state of being less addicted to the media.
In preparation for this upcoming General Conference I would like to try a similar program. The hard thing is that the media I consume today isn’t just TV but a barrage of different types of media. Of course, in my line of work and in the age we live it is impractical to completely unplug for a month, but my plan is to set myself some very definite and drastic limits for my media intake for the next month. Since I’m accountable to all of you on the internet, I feel that much more responsible to actually follow through. My plan might change slightly between now and when I have to start but here’s what I’m planning to do:
Starting Tuesday, 01 September 2009 until Saturday, 03 October 2009 I will:
- Not watch an episode of any TV show via cable, internet or stored on the computer
- Watch no more than one movie each week – although I’d rather take that out and say no movies at all, but I’m not sure how Eric will take to me not watching anything with him for a month, right after he’s just gotten a new TV 😛
- Not play any games on my computer or cell phone (Word Twist, Bubble Breaker, Solitare… none of the exciting games that I normally play :P)
- Only read blogs from my PDA while doing other things that might take up my time but not require my mind (i.e. mostly feeding Sam), or during a time not to exceed 15 minutes per day for blogs that don’t render well on my cell phone
- Only sign into Facebook once per day and spend no more than 15 minutes on that site
- Only go on YouTube to watch videos that are uplifting or educational (i.e. Mormon Messages or parenting help videos)
- Limit my time spent shopping online (it’s the only way I shop, so I can’t eliminate it completely) to no more than 2 hours per week
- Limit my time listening to podcasts or audiobooks to 1 hour per day, excepting scriptures, podcasts from the Church and other church materials
- Limit other time spent on the internet for purposes other than work, email, calendaring and similar daily functions to no more than 30 minutes in a day
The real success is in the things that I want to do with my time instead. One of the hardest parts is coming up with other things to do in the time that we get so used to filling with media. Here are some of the things I’d like to do:
- Read the book for the Relief Society book club for the month of September
- Daily personal and family scripture study
- Daily personal and family prayers
- Find a piano and spend at least 5 hours practicing and working on a piece to be able to play with Eric (yes, I know that 5 hours over the course of a month isn’t exactly a lofty goal but I do still have a baby that likely won’t let me practice for very long at a time)
- Have the dishes done at the end of each day
- Attend the temple twice
- Walk at least 3 miles a week (or more preferably finally find time to make use of my gym membership)
These aren’t the highest goals that I’ve set for myself, but I wanted to make sure they were attainable goals for me with a baby. So, there you have it, my goals for reducing my media consumption in preparation for General Conference. Anyone want to join me? I know it sounds daunting, but I can promise that if you will make your own such goals you will get more out of this upcoming General Conference as well as find more ways to enrich your life.