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Brian Hodder: Get unplugged, make real connections

There is no substitute for personal time with loved ones.
There is no substitute for personal time with loved ones. — 123RF Stock Photo

With the ending of the school year and the advent of some warmer weather, it appears that summer may finally be upon us.

For most people, summer is a time when we can get away from our daily routines, take some time off work and unplug from the stresses of our lives. It is vitally important to our overall health that we all take some time to get away from it all, especially at a time when there are so many negative things going on in the world around us and our levels of stress are higher.

Brian Hodder
Brian Hodder

In a world now dominated by technology such as smart phones and iPads, and social media sites like Facebook, the need to get “unplugged” is so very critical for all of us and, in particular, for our children.

This fact was made crystal clear to me over the past week. I just returned from my hometown where I attended the funeral of my beloved sister. During this incredibly difficult time, our family came together to grieve, provide support to one another and to say goodbye to our sister, mother, daughter and grandmother. In the time leading up to her death, technology was a very helpful tool in allowing family members to communicate what was happening to those who were away and gave those of us who didn’t live at home the chance to co-ordinate our travels to allow us to spend time with her before she left us.

In a world now dominated by technology such as smart phones and iPads, and social media sites like Facebook, the need to get “unplugged” is so very critical for all of us and, in particular, for our children.

Once she passed, technology then took a backseat to real human interaction as our family and friends came together to celebrate her life. While there remained the need to communicate to extended family and friends who were unable to return home, I didn’t see a lot of cellphone or iPad use over this grieving period. I did, however, see people I hadn’t seen in years, received more hugs, kisses and handshakes than I can count, and heard stories about my sister that I had never known when she was alive. There were tears as people mourned her loss and laughter as we remembered the good times we had shared. Through it all, it was a great comfort to have people physically there and focused on being present with us as we experienced the myriad emotions that come with such an event.

The small children also appeared to benefit from the absence of technology. Other than the use of an iPad to keep them occupied when there was a need for quiet, they were allowed to run around and be children. They, too, got the opportunity to meet family members they had only heard about before and were able to run around outside and play with their cousins. They were not shielded from the reality of death and also learned a valuable lesson about how family comes together to celebrate life, which goes on after a loved one has passed. Their real presence was such a comfort and a true reminder of the legacy of life my sister leaves behind.

While it need not take an event such as the death of a family member to remind us, the necessity of unplugging from technology and engaging in actual physical interaction with other human beings cannot be understated. In a world where people are increasingly connected by technology, we are becoming increasingly detached from real interaction with those to whom we are connected.

How many of you usually send text messages instead of phoning and talking with a family member or friend? How often do you spend real one-on-one time with a loved one and, when you do, do you turn off your cellphone ?

Do yourself a favour and unplug on a regular basis, and visit a loved one and give them a real hug or kiss. More importantly, model this behaviour for your children, who are growing up with all of this technology at hand; it may be the most important lesson you teach them.

Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at bdhodder@hotmail.com.

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