“Turning Off the Boxes”

In the coming year, I’m resolving to turn off my “boxes” – computer, TV, cell phone – a little more often.  Instead, I’m going to use that time to focus on connecting with a real, live person, whether that person is myself or someone else.  IMAG0393[2]

I confess that I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with computers.  Back in college, I remember taking a computer-based math course, and after only a few weeks of the course, I remember wishing for a tutor to save me from being completely overwhelmed.  I protested the existence of computers altogether because I thought they would destroy our creativity and social skills.  A few decades later, having seen how computers have been instrumental in enabling me to become a writer and to be successful in business, I have to admit that I owe a lot to the “boxes” I’ve worked with over the years.  But I can’t say that my initial reaction was entirely off the mark, either.

Computers do help us become more creative – and to tap that creativity in new and different and magnificent ways – but sometimes we forget that ideas start with a human being.  After all, what good is an Excel spreadsheet filled with numbers if you don’t know what those numbers mean?  And if we’re being honest, surely all of us must admit that we’ve taken to talking less since the advent of the cell phone.  Yes, we text, we email, we speak over the phone, but how often do we seek each other out for face-to-face connection like we did before these “boxes” became such a big part of our lives?

The problem with all of this digital “talk” is that there’s no real depth. I’ve noticed that on all these online dating sites, when I talk to people and they ask how my day was, if I go beyond, “Good,” they lose interest.  I worry that technology has made us lazy, and this laziness has carried over into the realm of our social communication.  We’re all become accustomed to instant gratification and speed and anything that will make our lives easier.  As a result, we’re not willing to put in the time to really listen and connect. Is a “smiley” emoticon really an acceptable substitute for a smile?

For me, it’s an essential truth that nothing takes away from the real.  Touching, feeling, being a part of three dimensions – there’s nothing like it.  Our boxes certainly make us more productive, but they’re also isolating us from each other. When you’re sad and having a bad day, it’s hard to curl up in bed with some great e-mails from your friends. Sometimes you just need real intimacy, and for that you need a person.

For that reason, a little while ago, I started turning off my boxes.  On one occasion I turned off the television for a day.  Then I turned off my computer for a day. It’s interesting what happens when you turn these things off and you have to amuse yourself instead.  You get creative.  You read a book or cook a new meal or simply spend some time outside.  You seek out other people, whether that’s calling your mom or meeting up with an old friend for lunch.  I found that when I turned off my boxes, that time became a gift.

I want to encourage everyone to give themselves this same little gift.  Every day, even if just for an hour, turn off your boxes. Just like a diet, it may be hard to stick to at first, but if you make it “a must,” I promise that eventually you’ll start really enjoying it.  You’ll become more selective about how you spend your time, and as a result you’ll use it more productively and focus more on the things that truly make you happy.  It’s very empowering to realize that you know what to do with yourself if and when the boxes go away.

We all need to devote a little time to ourselves, to doing something different and growing and discovering.  And when we do this, we find that we’re more open to other people as well.  We realize that we’ve been missing out on a lot of information, and all of a sudden we remember how to communicate, and how to let others in.

This year, let’s all stop hiding behind our little square boxes, whether it’s the computer or the television or something else.  Instead, let’s rebuild the foundations of our lives by seeking out more human contact, by getting emotionally involved and being open to deeper communication. There’s no substitute for a real experience, and no connection that can’t be enhanced by taking out the electronic middleman.  Let’s turn off the boxes and make better use of our time, together.

About Susanne:
Susanne Veder Berger is an author, educator, business executive and mother, who currently lives' on New York City's Upper West Side. Susanne has held a variety of executive positions in the field of marketing for CitiGroup, the U.S. Tennis Association and a number of other companies and organizations. Over the past 4 years, Susanne has been working with inner city high school students in Brooklyn, New York helping them develop self-esteem, prepare for college and secure internships – Susanne Veder Berger's work in education is centered around the implementation of extra curricular activities and the development of student-run journalism programs.

3 thoughts on ““Turning Off the Boxes”

  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

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