Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: Sharael Kolberg
ISBN 10: 0988961040
Subtitled “A Family’s Life Without Technology,” this is a journal compiled over the twelve months a young couple in mid-career and with a five-year-old daughter put their chosen lifestyle to a test. What will happen if they stop watching TV, prohibit the Internet at home, and put away their smart phones? Will they spend more time getting to know one another? Might they save money? Be more productive, or less? Do they dare try this experiment in Silicon Valley?
Sharael, a website producer, online writer, and digital photographer, was a fan of American Idol and needed music and videos to enjoy fitness sessions. Jeff, an overworked marketing executive in medical technology counted on Facebook, iPod, and Craigslist. Little Katelyn had been using a keyboard since age two and watched movies before bedtime. The problem? These parents were tired and using television as a babysitter. Other issues were nagging them, such as a lack of cozy-up time for themselves. They might be missing out on other pastimes. Worse, there had been reports that excessive TV watching is linked to Attention Deficit Disorder, addiction, and obesity – not to mention that a child who watches two hours daily will, by middle school, have seen 100,000 act of violence, including 8,000 murders.
The rules they put in place allowed for emergency calls on a cellphone, watching TV in other people’s houses, and work related technology as long as it wasn’t in their home.
I wish every single family tied to technology would read this book. For that reason I will not share as much as I would like to about their specific findings. I will say much of Sharael’s readable (unstuffy) account is, first and foremost, useful information for the rest of us. We can learn by their experience without going Cold Turkey like they did. We might, for instance, prepare our friends and family members for any changes in communication we make, such as limiting emails. One of Jeff’s cousins felt cut out of their lives, and Katelyn’s teachers were inconvenienced. Secondly, many of the anecdotes are uniquely amusing, e.g., Sharael, now without a laptop, loses the right to her regular seat in her favorite coffeehouse and has to sit with the dog owners on a bench outside. This literally opened the door to her subsequent love affair – with nature.
Some of her entries meander into philosophical self-examination – on materialism, on friendship, on parenting. That happens when your life suddenly quiets down long enough to question your own deepest desires and motivations. Husband Jeff didn’t seem to fall into that mode (but we don’t know). He missed his iTunes almost as much as Katelyn missed her iGadgets for long car rides. But, thankfully, he stayed the course.
I like Sharael a lot, though her popular culture habits seemed to me (an old lady) a tad immature. She also is mired in unrealistic California standards; the abundance of low-tech resources for kids is not something you’d find in every community. Still, she demonstrates an inner dialogue that earned my respect. She’s a natural writer, too, and I have no doubt she will become successful with an old-fangled typewriter if she chooses that route and can get the ribbons.
Something else occurs to me: While the book-as-artifact has hallmarks of self-publishing – most noticeably, it needs proof-reading -- I now question how important it is to have a book perfectly edited, or to stick to standard formatting. I do so appreciate this woman’s energy and purpose, which convinces me that, with regard to non-fiction at least, it is much more important to get the ideas out there – sort of like TED in print – than to adhere to the traditions of the great publishing houses.