by Edwin A. Schwisow
As I write this review of the book, The Winter of Our Disconnect, by Susan Maushart, Ph.D., Apple Computers founder Steve Jobs is being eulogized around the world for his revolutionary effect on our communication culture. His influence was so profound and rapid; we're still asking ourselves if it's ultimately all for the good.
The apparent addictiveness of electronic devices, videogames, smart phones, and their attendant software is of concern, and despite the supposed educative properties of these machines, achievement levels in American schools continue to sag.
Adventists, who trace their lineage back to hardy New Englanders who decried any influence that reduced a person's ability to exercise free choice and independence, are showing greater and greater concern. Several young relatives in my own Adventist family have chosen to eliminate televisions and Internet access from their homes, believing these distractions detract from their devotional lives and communication with their spouses and children. They've eliminated these devices, not because they don't want them, but because they fear they want them too much!
This nonfiction book The Winter of Our Disconnect, first published last year in Australia and appearing for the first time in America in 2011 is a Penguin (quality softbound) edition, written by media ecologist Susan Maushart, Ph.D., a single mother of three teenagers, who sounds (in writing) like Erma Bombeck’s Australian cousin.
Concerned that she and her children were becoming seriously addicted and, in fact, dominated by the machines in their lives, the author tells the story of their decision to go six months without television, computers, Internet, or cell phones. She writes they all felt ‘info-obese’ and needed to lose some electronic weight.
The book is quirky and too long for what it covers, but that's part of the fun of reading it, and indeed it has received rave reviews on Amazon.com. (the first 100 pages are its strongest). As an education in the strange nomenclature and idiom of electronic addicts, the book offers an entertaining and effortlessly in-depth experience in laugh-line augmentation. The author’s Australian background may add challenge to her prose, but it adds flavor to the tone of the family’s odyssey.
Adventism, in fact, has had a peculiarly challenging time contending with electronic media competition, especially at the children’s Sabbath school level, where much of the unruliness of younger children has been blamed on television.
The family in the book learns profound lessons about the real advantages of electronic media (computers help save a LOT of time on homework) and that some electronic gizmos require far more extra time than they ever save.
The book contains a great deal of factual information, such as, “Today, some 93 percent of teenagers are online and 75 percent use cell phones, according to 2010 figures from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.” In this reviewer’s opinion, the first 100 pages or so of this 278-page book would make excellent and entertaining grist for a Christian study group on controlling electronic media in the home and office.