Jan. 26, 2012
By Karen Wyman
This week I barely made the deadline for this column. I was also late for work and late picking up the girls. I largely ignored my family at dinner, let phone calls go directly to voicemail and totally forgot about the girls’ swimming lessons.
Why? I am happy to say it’s not due to early Alzheimer’s. I am not proud to say that it’s due to an addiction — an addiction to Words With Friends.
Ever since installing this application on my phone, I have been obsessed. I play it anywhere and everywhere, and won’t stop until I give myself a migraine or fall asleep. I can totally relate to Alec Baldwin getting kicked off an airplane for refusing to quit playing this stimulating game. I’m not sure if I would hold up an entire flight of people, but I am guilty of holding up traffic once when trying to play at a stoplight. Don’t worry. I would never play while driving, which is precisely why I have barely left my house this week.
For those of you who are blissfully unaware of Words With Friends, it’s essentially Scrabble that you play with your social media friends or random opponents. At one point, I had 10 games going with different friends, including one of my close girlfriends who recently moved across the country. Although we were 2,000 miles apart, it was like she was in my living room having late-night snacks and playing a game. We messaged each other about our days via the app and what we were eating. As the tiles and board space became sparse, however, the conversation turned into trash talk. In our defense, we started out supporting each other for high-scoring words and appreciating each other’s creativity when obscure words were produced. Our competitive selves quickly took over though, and we no longer built up or complimented each other. Accusations of cheating started to fly as we questioned each other’s knowledge of the words we just played. These late-night bouts may not demonstrate fine sportsmanship, but they sure do add some spice to otherwise uneventful nights.
Finally, I woke up one morning to the sight of large dark circles under my eyes and the pain of a pounding headache. I admitted to myself that I had hit rock bottom and needed help. I was being hypocritical by limiting the amount of time my girls could play video games — sometimes even stopping them mid-game much to their chagrin. I now realized first-hand how powerful the urge can be to immerse oneself in technology; whether it’s video games, social media or just plain old Internet searching. I didn’t want us to become a family who no longer talked to each other, with everyone just paying attention to their electronic devices. I immediately uninstalled my Words With Friends app, sadly realizing I may not have enough self-control to monitor my own time limits as I do my daughters’. It was my way of imposing a time out, a time out from technology.
I realized this would be my New Year’s resolution: to be more present with my family and friends. I am going to be conscious not to check emails, texts, Facebook, etc. when I am with others. I want those significant to me to know they are more important than whatever alert is beeping at me on my phone. I realize this is common sense and courtesy, but it has all but disappeared in today’s society.
I think of how I want my girls to emulate respectful behavior, even making them take part in handwritten thank you notes with a “drawing” before they could even write their names. Why not set technology boundaries now and practice what I am sure I will preach to them in the years to come? Rules, such as, no technology use ever while driving, or finishing a phone call or text before approaching a sales counter immediately come to mind. I think I self-intervened just in time, before my “addiction” turned into Words With Enemies, and I lost any more valuable time with family and friends.
Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for six years, and lives with her husband and twin 4-year-old daughters.