“Play doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself.” -Greg McKeown

We need to reclaim play. When we talk about technology, and especially about healthy tech, we must combat the idea that we’re somehow at war with play and fun. In fact, exactly the opposite is true: Healthy tech is battle FOR fun! 

Think about the last time you had a bout of unhealthy tech (under quarantine in a state with record rainfall, I don’t have to look back far). Was that fun? No! It was at best mind-numbing. It passed the time. That’s hardly a five star review for an activity. If you go on a date with someone and their summation of your time together was “it passed the time”, I’d venture to guess it didn’t go the way you hoped. Yet this is often our standard for tech.

A Little Tech Test

Here’s a little test: Find someone who watches Netflix, plays video games, or has been on social media in the past week and ask them this question: Have they ever been on their tech of choice past the point of enjoyment? The answer will most likely be “yes”.

Most gamers has played a game at some point beyond the threshold of fun. Dedicated show streams (Netflix or otherwise) tend to find themselves in the dreaded show hole and, as they will tell you, most have tried unsuccessfully to power through said show-hole by watching inane productions they wouldn’t recommend to anyone. And almost veteran of social media can recount a time they found themself mindlessly scrolling through an infinite feed loop looking for something they couldn’t quite put their finger on. If we’re honest, we’ve probably done at least one of these as well.

What keeps us doing these activities even when they aren’t fun? They pass the time. This is why we need to reclaim play. There is something more exciting out there than simply making through a day. 

We Need More Than Survival. We Need Play!

As Greg McKeown points out in his book “Essentialism”, play isn’t a good idea, it’s the heart of every good idea. His point: “We are built to play and built through play.” (pg. 86) This is because play: 

  1. broadens the range of options available to us
  2. is an antidote for stress
  3. has a positive effect on the executive function of the brain

The problem is that much of our tech simulates play. It looks like play (it seems to be fun) and it acts like play (we enter “flow” – that state where we are hyper-focused on a task and lose track of everything around us) but this simulated fun lacks two traits of real play

  1. we are passive, not active. Even when we are “playing” we are really just following someone else’s rules.
  2. we are engaged by stimulation, not interest. (hence partaking well past when it was fun).

We Reclaim with Our RESET

We can reclaim play for focusing on activities that increase joy, not steal it. We look at a RESET and look for those activities that increase and enhance our relationships, enjoyment, sleep, emotions, and time rather than distract from them. Real play will bring out our individual gifts, hone our interests, and spark our passions as we create and connect. It will excite us, not pacify us. Real play is the exact opposite of simulated play and it is exactly what we need to reclaim for ourselves and our families. 

Let’s reclaim those activities that let us and our families play hard have fun.