Sisterhood Blog

The Best Reasons to Unplug

By Sarah Seltzer


During Lent and Passover, we are told to renounce: food, mostly, but bad habits too. One New York congregation, Romemu, has gone even further, arguing that email is virtual hametz, something to drop during Passover. I’m as compelled by the ebb and flow of cleanses and abstinence — followed and preceded by hedonism, of course — as any other Judeo-Christian American type. It’s kind of our thing, right?

But I tend to think that these “unplugging” directives are a step too far. Labeling anything sinful or even hametz gives it a moral value, which renders it too fraught — as Elissa Strauss noted, it’s kind of Puritan. Personally, I don’t think being connected online is a bad thing at all. Instagramming a moment is simply another way of being in that moment, particularly when you collaborate with a friend on a fun camera shot. It’s endearing, and breeds connectedness and cleverness. Casey Cep, a former unplugger, takes a very strong line against the unplugging movement for this very reason.

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Stop And Smell the... Boredom?

By Nina Badzin


This is the fourth and final post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.

Turns out I’m not the phone-addict I thought I’d become during the first months of my iPhone experiment.

To recap: Before Passover, I decided to stop living as a slave to my phone. I’d heard about others’ attempts at unplugging and even about one writer’s Internet-free year. In most cases, the experiments failed because the change was too drastic. Less phone time sounded reasonable, but my rules still required practice.

Some Forward readers insisted that strict Shabbat observance would solve my phone problems. As I reported in late April, I didn’t find that improving my Shabbat habits had any positive influence on the rest of the week. (However, I would love for some Shabbat observant readers to tell me whether they are less addicted to their phones on Sunday through Friday due to their 24 hours off the grid. Do you not look at a text during dinner on a random Wednesday? Are you not staring at your phone on the subway or in line at the grocery store? Let me know in the comments below.)

My phone-free progress has not come from big blocks of time. Rather, as debut author Natalia Sylvester noted when she couldn’t use her phone during an international vacation, it’s possible to do more of what you want when your spare moments are no longer spent staring into your phone. I loved Sylvester’s advice to “collect these moments. Spend them wisely. Watch them stack up like change rescued from underneath the couch cushions, piled high in a clear glass jar that astounds you with how much it holds once it’s full.”

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Curing My iPhone Addiction

By Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin
Nina Badzin reads with her children.

This is the third post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.

As I reported last month, I’ve made some progress in cutting my iPhone time in half. I started charging my phone in the kitchen instead of my bedroom, which eliminated any phone use in the early morning and during the last moments of the night. (And by “moments” I mean an hour, which is true for many late-night smartphone abusers.) I increased my iPhone-free time on Shabbat and stopped placing my phone on the table when I’m out with friends or family at restaurants and coffee shops.

Progress! Right? From the way I brag about my new habits you would think an awards reception was in order. Unfortunately, my progress has stalled since implementing the aforementioned measures. While I have not backtracked on the changes I made, what’s happening is something I like to call The Spanx Effect.

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Why Is Unplugging So Hard To Do?

By Nina Badzin


This is the second post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.

Immediately after Passover, I announced my intention to cut the cord on technology — specifically, to reduce my iPhone use in half by next spring. Inspired by the themes of the holiday, I decided to stop acting like a slave to texts, emails, Facebook and Twitter. Instead, I looked for ways I could realistically shave off the time I spend with my eyes focused on that spellbinding screen.

“In half” is a nebulous figure, considering I’m not sure how much time I was connected to my phone before Passover. But I know I’m not alone in suffering from the fragmented, frazzled lifestyle that comes from the “convenience” of having smartphones around no matter where and when.

According to a study presented by University of Worcester psychologist Richard Balding, “the more you check your phone the edgier you feel.” Most fascinating was the fact that “personal interactions via email, text and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter” cause the most anxiety as opposed to work-related interactions on our phones.

The good news? My experiments so far have already proven fruitful and might help others, too. In little over a month I’m spending less time with my phone. The bad news? I still have a long way to go.

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Help! My iPhone Has Taken Over My Life

By Nina Badzin

Nina Badzin
Journalist Nina Badzin sits in her kitchen checking her iPhone. Can she really give up her gadgets for a whole year?

This is the first post in a Sisterhood series by Nina Badzin on gadgets, family and work.

On the Shabbat afternoon before Passover, I received a frantic voicemail from a friend who had texted me an important question earlier that morning. She was worried (and annoyed) when I had not texted back by noon.

Was I mad? she asked in her message. Was I injured? Was something wrong with one of the kids?

Sadly, I understood her exasperation. I usually text back quickly, on Shabbat or otherwise. It just so happened that on this particular morning, I was at the beginning of what I’m calling My Passover-Inspired Phone Experiment. Why put myself through such an experiment? I decided it was time to rescue myself from the stronghold of my iPhone.

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Abortion's Voices & Peeking at Emerging Life

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Peeking inside the womb

There has been recent news of a curious quirk of the Apple iPhone 4s. If you have one of these phones you can ask Siri, its anthropomorphized virtual assistant, a question and “she” will give you an answer in her robotic voice. Where’s the nearest Thai restaurant? Siri knows. What’s the weather today? Siri will tell you. Siri seems practically omniscient. The one question Siri seems not to comprehend is, “where is the nearest abortion clinic?” Siri couldn’t come up with an answer, leading some pro-choice organizations and bloggers to wonder if Siri (and her creators) intentionally bollixed it up for ideological reasons.

An Apple spokeswoman has since said, however, that it is a glitch in the iPhone 4s beta program rather than a deliberate omission, and one they are working to rectify.

At new website Project Voice, poet Maya Pindyck and her friend Sarah Bruner have gathered together the stories of nearly 250 women who have had abortions.

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My Biological Clock Is Digital

By Hinda Mandell

As if us single ladies didn’t have enough pressure to deal with — no mom, I would not like to meet the emcee from the Goldenblatt’s Hanukkah party — we now have this to consider: It’s not only our biological clocks that are ferociously ticking before our female hardware is incapable of conceiving. That concern is so 1990s. Try this on for size: If we don’t have a child soon — as in now — we may be too old to technologically connect with our tot, who will be born twiddling an iPhone.

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