In 2009, journalist Susan Maushart pulled the plug on her family’s technology, and she and her three teenage children lived without technology for six months. For the first two weeks, they lived without electricity, and it wasn’t because they had been snowed out (they live in Australia). Cue all the shocked stares and exclamations. It’s all true, however, and Maushart documents her family’s experiences in The Winter of Our Disconnect.
Quite frankly, I was fascinated by this book. Technology’s effect upon me and the rest of the plugged-in world is one of those things that I mentally kick around. Being in library school has inspired more kicking and poking of the topic. Maushart simply adds powerful anecdotal evidence to this topic. However, I think she also keeps it down-to-earth. While changes occur in her family’s life, it’s not a sudden complete turn-about worthy of one of those soppy movies that make you alternatively want to cheer and gag. It shows the benefits of unplugging without completely disregarding the world as it has become. It is not preachy and provides excellent summaries of research on the effects of technology on people and their well-being. I myself was particularly fascinated by some of the effects and research Maushart brought up. I was fascinated by her testimony about how the lack of technology changed her youngest daughter’s sleep schedule and the ripple effects from that change. On the flip side, I also found the research she presented on the role of Facebook and other social media on personal relationships to be fascinating. Spending time online means that, yes, you are interacting, but not in a meaningful way. It was an interesting bit of discussion.
Overall, I thought the book struck a good balance of humor, good writing and well-integrated into the greater discussion. It definitely gave me some things to think about in terms of my own use of technology and its role in society in general. I think that it would be a great discussion book for a book club or round table or even a class. It is not a particularly long book–about 258 pages–and I promise that it goes fast. So, check it out!