A black-and-white video opens with a family seated at the dinner table: dad, mom, three kids. Both parents are on their phones. A montage shows kids, couples, families — all on their phones. Cut back to the dinner table. The dad turns his phone over and sets it down. The mom looks directly at him. Suddenly, the video switches to full color. We see the same people from the montage now playing soccer, playing board games, riding bikes in Cameron Park, kayaking on the Brazos River and sitting around a fire pit. The couple that was sitting side by side in bed, each on a phone, is now laughing and talking together. These words appear: “Talk more. Tech less.”
Before you panic, Dawn Wible, the founder of Talk More Tech Less, doesn’t want you to throw away your cellphone or smash it with a hammer. She just wants you to prioritize its place in your life, to give yourself permission to step away every now and then and engage with the people you love. These are lessons Wible and her husband first learned from working with teenage boys and then applied in their own family.
“My life is a total journey of learning and being teachable and learning what this looks like for my own life,” she said.
Wible graduated from Baylor University in 2000 with a degree in education. She’s married to Matt Wible, and they have three boys. Wacoan writer Megan Willome visited with Wible by phone to talk about technology’s place in our homes and in our world and about Wible’s passion: mealtime.
WACOAN: There are a lot of Wibles in Waco. How do you fit into the clan?
Wible: I married into the family. My husband, Matt, is the son of Speedy Wible.
WACOAN: What’s your Waco story? Did you get here through Baylor?
Wible: I was born in Harker Heights, just an hour south. My brother went to Baylor, so I visited him some. He went to Highland Baptist Church back in the day. We’d visited the church, and I loved the community at Baylor. I applied to five other schools, and it came down to the community I felt in Waco. I was drawn to that community aspect but not just Baylor, the whole city.
I met my husband here, at Baylor, and he’s a Wacoan. It would take an act of God to get him out of Waco — he loves it too. Wibles, it’s where they belong.
WACOAN: When did you graduate?
Wible: Graduated in 2000 with an education degree, and I taught school at Texas Christian Academy. I substitute taught some in Waco ISD. And then we decided to have kids, and I worked part time during that.
WACOAN: Tell me more about your husband. I know his organization led to the genesis of Talk More Tech Less.
Wible: My husband runs an organization called Heart of Texas Field Guides, which is a mentorship organization for junior high and high school boys. He worked in the youth ministry at Highland, so we’ve spent a lot of time with teenagers for about 15 years. We started to notice a trend with technology in their lives. That was before I started looking in my own life, which is a lot of time how it goes, right?
WACOAN: Right. What is Heart of Texas Field Guides?
Wible: It’s an outdoor mentorship program, teaching them life skills, getting them outside. We have summer camps, and they do once-a-month weekend outings. During that time [the kids] would be off their technology. Even five to seven years ago it was not a big deal, but we started to notice what a big deal it [was becoming] to be without their technology for a weekend or a week. We’d even notice physical signs of withdrawal.
About 2014, summer 2014, on day three of the boys being off technology, we saw a shift happen with them. When they’d show up, they were really attached to their phones. The students were not real engaged as we talked to their parents when they dropped them off. In day three, we got some real eye-to-eye contact, real conversations. We noticed they were engaging more with us, were more interested in us and what we were doing. Boys would come in the kitchen where the moms were cooking and ask us questions and talk to us.
We made Detox Boxes [a wooden box to store electronic devices]. At the end of summer camp the parents came, and we said, ‘Take it home with you. Put your phones in there at night or at mealtimes.’ They did. The parents were really surprised and impressed with just that idea, almost like it gave them permission to say, ‘You don’t have to be so attached.’
When we got home from camp I started researching. I saw a real need for detaching from our technology. I started reading articles about detox retreats that people take and seeing articles about these concentration camp things that kids go to in other countries because they couldn’t get away from their technology. I researched the origins of what cellphones were made for. It made me start to look at my own life.
It’s not just about teenage boys but the small decisions I made in my own marriage about detachment or even about paying attention to my husband. As we had kids, I evaluated my time spent with them versus time spent with technology. When I started to look inside myself is when Talk More Tech Less began. When I get together with girlfriends, this is one of the things we talk about. I remember my 2-year-old son, he’d pull my chin up and get me to look at him, and it woke me up.
WACOAN: On the Detox Box, why does it work? What is it about putting phones in a box versus just putting them on silent or even in airplane mode?
Wible: We made the box not this trendy, pretty, clear thing. For it to be wood, it keeps to the same story of the boys that first built theirs out in the woods. They had boards and built boxes. You can fit five phones in them, five iPhone 7s. Our [manufacturer] is local to Waco, so we can change it up as technology changes. We have families that they’ll put the phones in [the box] at night and use clocks to wake themselves up.
It comes in six parts, and it has notches on it so you can build it as a family. You’re using your hands. Our hands are for more than typing on our phones. Our hands are created for amazing things. [The Detox Box] is just this space — out of sight, out of mind. You put it in, slide the lid closed. We turn ours on silent so the box doesn’t vibrate.
A lot of times we eat with our phones on the table, and my eyes will go to who’s texting. As your eyes break, your attention breaks as well. I’ve been studying so much about the brain on technology, how the eyes are connected. The lack of eye contact is rising very steadily in kids but also among adults because we’re not engaging through eye contact, and the eyes are the gateway to the soul. Then it takes your mind just that split second to kind of come back and reassess the situation.
I did it to someone the other day. They were telling me a story, and I had my phone up and saw a text from my husband. And it was nothing, it wasn’t an emergency, but I’m so trained to answer that call.
WACOAN: I like how you say on the website, ‘We’re not saying No, we’re saying How.’
Wible: We are not about throwing our phones away; we’re about prioritizing.
Thinking about my life, thinking about the idea of keeping balance for this interview, the idea of balance to me is pretty unattainable, but the idea of priority to me is becoming more and more real in my life. As time is shorter, my hours are limited. I’m trying to learn what it means to prioritize my time and my people and my life. That’s what [keeping balance] looks like for me.
In saying Talk More Tech Less, it’s not a balancing act. It’s saying, ‘What’s my priority?’ We give ourselves permission to put our priorities over [technology].
And looking at our culture, we know we need technology. I use it for my grocery list — I can type them in and pick them up. In our culture, the way that technology has been designed and has seeped into our lives to overtake everything, we feel not only attached to it but dependent on it. It was designed to make us dependent on it. If we can remember that our technology is a tool and we’re not enslaved to it, we’ll be in a healthier place. When that text comes in, we can get to it when we finish our conversation or giving our kids a bath.
WACOAN: You offer a 30-Day Experience. What is that?
Wible: It’s not locking your phone in the Detox Box for 30 days. You use it at certain times of the day when you unplug. It gives you direction for what these 30 days look like. After you get done, your life is going to look different because of the time in nature that you’ve spent, the time around the table. You’re going to make those small decisions.
WACOAN: I loved the video on your site, which is the first thing you see. I like how it moved from black-and-white to color and how you conveyed so much through action, without words.
Wible: I was really impressed. Fullwrite Creative did it one day at one house. We tried to think through when we were writing the storyline, what are the critical points where we see relationships suffering because of technology, when we see a missed opportunity for connection. Of course, mealtimes, and then the one that hits a lot of people is the couple sitting in bed, each of them on their phones. It’s so true! That spoke really big to a lot of people.
And then the kids. The kids are a big part of this picture — what are we passing down to the next generation?
WACOAN: I was recently on vacation, and although I always had my phone with me, I took a break from social media for that week. I also made a decision to not look at my phone while standing in line — you stand in line a lot in New York City — and I found myself noticing the people around me.
Wible: We all do that! We’re not people-watching anymore. We’re not taking notice of the things around us, to life going on around us. We’re living our lives behind a screen. Whether we’re at a concert, Beyoncé, we pull that camera out, and we hit record instead of watching her. We’re half-watching her because we’re thinking about how we’re going to share that video.
‘Unplug’ is the perfect way to describe this. The biggest thing I’d say is to take time to unplug. Every family’s gonna be different. Some families will take time on weekends [away from technology], some will do mealtimes. Some will say after 10 p.m. phones will be shut down: ‘I want my kids to get sleep and not be on their phones at 2 a.m.’ It looks different for different families.
WACOAN: On the way home from my trip, on the plane, I listened to an interview with Anil Dash, who talks about the moral impact of technology. He has a 5-year-old son, and the boy has a 15-minute-a-day limit with technology. But Dash talked about how they often use that time together, playing a game or learning how to program a robot, which I thought was an interesting approach with younger children.
Wible: Being on our technology with our kids is really important. We just launched our Smartphone Ed course. We interviewed families and talked with older teens that have been in the cellphone world for a while so they could speak to families giving their kids their first phones, [saying,] ‘This is what I’ve experienced. This is the kind of voice you can have on social media. Don’t get caught up in all the drama.’ I loved [the younger kids] getting to hear from peers.
One of the biggest points that came out of that filming, [afterward] we just sat and filmed the students talking for a while. They were saying that parents don’t have a choice anymore not to be involved in their [kids’] online worlds. It’s where a lot of them are living, and if we just hand them the phone and walk away, the software developers are pretty much raising our kids. They have no agenda other than attachment because they want to get the money. They’ll do whatever it takes to grab their attention. It’s designed for addiction.
WACOAN: What else did the older teens say?
Wible: They began by saying they would tell younger kids to wait to get social media. They said it can get consuming at too young of an age with what you’re posting and your motivation behind what you post. Also, what people are liking or commenting on, which can get out of hand. They said kids forget to just live their lives. They are tailoring their lives to what they want their social media accounts to look like and what others see and don’t see.
They also went into how it has changed dating. There isn’t as much risk or excitement or wonder in dating. It’s all found out before you even meet or are face to face. You know everything about someone before you even lay eyes on them. Then when you are in the relationship, so much of it happens between a device, not between the two of you. It’s also very public, rather than having shared moments.
One couple gave great examples of how they worked hard at the beginning of their relationship to make sure they were not using social media and texting to define their relationship. They would run into each other at events and go out to eat together and formed a slow, gradual friendship, which turned into something special. They said it was exciting to find out stories and events from telling it to each other rather than learning about one another online.
My film guy and I kept looking at each other, surprised, as they all talked. It was an honest and valuable conversation.
WACOAN: You’ve mentioned your kids. You have three?
Wible: I have three boys.
So I live in a home with lots of boy stuff, and they love games. They love Wii games, playing sports. They hunt and fish and camp, but they love their games. We have one iPad in our home, and we have some games they can play: Madden [NFL], Minecraft.
The notifications, they bother me. They will call out to [the boys], which allows them to not unplug. The notification will pop up every five, 10, 15 minutes, shouting and pulling them in. ‘These games are genius,’ I told my husband. The way they attach you and train your mind to need to be on that technology.
We have to work harder with our kids to see that this is a game. This is not your identity. It’s not something to pour all your time and talents into.
That’s what I’m instilling in my kids, that there is life outside the screen.
I limit their games and how many they have on their phones.
I also definitely have filters. I use the Circle With Disney because I like the time restraints. We can set a bedtime. We can set iPad time for an hour a day, and they can divide it up, how they use that hour, all at once or 15 minutes at a time. It really helps us [as parents] not forget. If we say an hour, then that technology helps us hold to our word.
WACOAN: I like that you give your kids some flexibility in how they choose to spend that time with technology.
Wible: There’s protection in that. What I like about the Circle With Disney is it has different age levels on it or different restrictions, so you can tailor it. We get to gradually get them introduced to technology, gradual exposure.
WACOAN: Tell me more about your boys.
Wible: My oldest is the most outdoorsy of all of us, including my husband. When he was first going to go to kindergarten, he’d run outside and try to hunt squirrels and be outside until he had to be constrained to a classroom. My second loves Legos. He loves art. He loves soccer. He does like to fish. My youngest just loves to play and be outside: trampoline, playing ball, camping.
WACOAN: Obviously, being outside is important to your family. What are some outdoor activities you enjoy together?
Wible: We’re so lucky. We have some dear friends who have some land in East Texas, so a lot of times on weekends we’ll escape to their land. They have four-wheelers. They have a big outdoor kitchen, so we cook out there. The kids literally just disappear. We have a group of friends in Waco we do things with, and they’ll come.
We do campfires. My son will ask weekly if he can get a campfire going. We got back from one of my husband’s trips with him, and I was like, ‘Go shower right now!’ because I think they hadn’t showered in a week. Ten minutes after that he was outside, getting ready to build a campfire. He said, ‘I don’t want to smell like soap. I want to smell like smoke.’
WACOAN: Do you homeschool or are they in school?
Wible: They’re in school, in Midway ISD, out at Spring Valley Elementary. My youngest goes to Mother’s Day Out twice a week. I was a teacher, but I always thought my kids needed influences outside of me. I spend a lot of time with them. They can have someone else tell them what to do.
WACOAN: What do you and Matt like to do together on a date?
Wible: He’s starting to teach me to fly fish. [Heart of Texas] Field Guides is making fly rods. He’s starting to train the other field guides to make rods. He loves to fly fish. Some days we’ll go out if the kids are being watched by Mimi. We love doing that, especially in the springtime. We’ll go out on the river, bring some lunch. My favorite thing to eat is chips and salsa, so we bring that.
If we can get away at all, whatever that looks like, is life-giving. My favorite thing is to grab Matt and have dinner together. We love to walk downtown, walk on the Suspension Bridge, catch up.
WACOAN: How do you use that precious Mother’s Day Out time? Do you use it to focus on your business?
Wible: Yes. I’ll schedule meetings with our interns, or we just started Talk More Meals, which started last week [in January] — a local food service for Waco. So I’m spending a lot of time on that, to build that and get orders in.
I also office out of the home, so it’s easy for me to do some work at home if the kids have gone to bed.
WACOAN: What is Talk More Meals?
Wible: When Matt and I did the 30-Day Experience — I said that we need to do this before I ask anyone else to do this — I wrote this whole curriculum. We learned what it looked like to prioritize people over our phones, and one of the biggest takeaways was not having phones at mealtimes, whether at home or in a restaurant. We have our Detox Box on the table, and we put our phones in there. We have a couple of [local] restaurants we’re talking to about providing Detox Boxes.
Talk More Tech Less is such a big picture — anyone can buy our stuff or follow us on Instagram. But I love this message for Waco. We’ve been speaking at some of the schools about online safety, getting the word out about prioritizing our people. I love the idea of Waco being a place that Talk More Tech Less thrives. One of the ways we want to do this is pouring our energy into mealtimes. Does it look like people ordering food from us that is already cooked and not having to grab fast food?
Mealtimes, it’s such an age-old tradition that’s quickly becoming lost. We want Talk More Meals to be something so Wacoans can slow down. Mealtime is such a powerful thing. It can be passed up, but we need food to live. When you sit down and pause and really enjoy it and gather with people to enjoy them, it’s a powerful moment, and I want to be a part of that in Waco.[For Talk More Meals] we have a talking point on the label. One of my friends said, ‘So my 15-year-old put his phone up, what now?’ We don’t know how to talk. On every item you buy there’ll be a talking point on every label, along with ingredients and instructions. I have a lot of working moms or business people that buy their lunches from us, and they eat them at the office. Even sitting with co-workers at the office, you can talk there.
Our food is paleo, gluten-free, Whole30.
WACOAN: What is Whole30?
Wible: It’s a book [and program] that was written about how to eat to heal your body, and a lot of people are doing it in the fitness community. [My family and I] did it two years ago. There’s no sugar, no dairy, just basically eating paleo for 30 days. People said they’d eat this way if someone made it for them. I’ve been cooking Whole30 for close friends.
There’s a need for that right now. [People] want to make healthier choices, but they want it to be easy and accessible, and cooking it that way can be hard, making it without sugar and preservatives.
WACOAN: So for Talk More Meals, you make all the food?
Wible: I make it. We’re working out of a commercial kitchen right now. This week I’m setting up pick-up locations. Right now it’s delivery only. They buy by the portion. I have some girlfriends that buy two [portions] of each. It’s me and a small staff.
WACOAN: And now I have to ask you about cooking. What role has it played in your life?
Wible: If I could think of my perfect night, it is when my husband is away on a trip — ha, ha, that’s so mean — and I have the house to myself, my kids are asleep, and I will cook an epic meal.
I love cooking Indian food, Thai food. Sometimes my girlfriends will drop by and say, ‘Your house smells so good!’ I traveled to India, and my family is involved in missions in India. Our grandfather-type man in our life was an Indian pastor, and I learned to make curry at an early age, and it turned me on to cooking.
It’s my downtime. It’s my self-care. And now it’s my job. I love recipes, I love ingredients. I don’t always follow recipes because I’m not much of a rule-follower.
WACOAN: I read your blog post ‘We The People.’ Do you think that in the wake of the election, after all the vitriol, that we are at a turning point in how we approach social media?
Wible: It was my first blog post. That in itself is scary.
I feel like this election has been a wake-up call to us about social media and how we communicate. Sometimes you have to walk through the junk before you get healed. This election was exposing a lot of — it’s not a selfishness behind the comments, but I do believe it exposed the lack of empathy in our lives. Just like I said about the eye contact, people have talked about politics since day one. For forever, people have sat across the table and talked politics, and sometimes it got nasty and heated and sometimes it was civil.
I think that my heart [in the post] was where we’ve gone as a culture in the comment sections, in how we speak about an actual human being and how we speak to an actual human being. There is that false bravery or false courage that we get when we’re behind the keyboard. There are no consequences. We just mouth it off — we type it off.
I had numerous friends text me that week [of the election] saying, ‘I’m taking a break from social media.’ I hadn’t been on that much, so after about the sixth text from a friend, I got on there. And I was so disgusted. It was just really sad to see how people were talking on both sides.
Then it went from the politics of it to just berating people and who they were. It didn’t even have to do with their beliefs. I just stepped back. It’s so heated. I didn’t post the day of the election.
I’m a big people person. I really value relationships, and it’s so important to me, so it grieved me to see how we can so easily dismiss a human being because of our disagreements.
WACOAN: Our managing editor who contacted you about the interview, Heather Garcia, has a baby. I have kids who are 18 and 20, out of the house. What principles apply to both of us regarding technology, even though we’re in different spots as moms?
Wible: We’re putting resources on our website all the time. We’re building our parental resource page.
There have been a couple of moms groups that I’ve spoken to, and it’s almost like they are asking for permission. Because of the way that our technology is created and the way our culture has told us we have to be attached to this. You have permission to put your people first. You have permission to put your children first. In no way do I ever want Talk More Tech Less to be any kind of shaming. We all carry around enough guilt and shame.
It’s funny. I’m saying Talk More Tech Less, and I’m running a social media account for it. And a lot of people started following. [They said,] ‘This lady isn’t trying to shame me — she’s in it with us.’ We’re in this together.
There are plenty of times when my laundry is piled high, and I decide I’m going to read some of the stuff on my phone or catch up on social media instead. So there’s [an aspect of] listening to yourself and your needs.
To moms, you don’t have to answer every message and every call that comes your way. You can take the time for yourself. And what does that look like? Do you sit down and put your feet up while your baby takes a nap and look at your phone — great, do that! The next day does that mean taking your baby for a walk outside and you look up at the trees and [the baby is] exposed to nature in those early years?
Once I was taking a walk with Ty, and he wanted to hold a leaf. I’d been studying about the color green and how it can detox our brains from technology. I read an article about how children were playing on yellow and red plastic McDonald’s playgrounds that were overstimulating them. Rather than kids being in green grass and old wooden playgrounds with the natural colors, the browns and the greens, that were calming them and helping them get that energy out rather than escalating the aggression. [Ty] would take a leaf and rub it in between his fingers. He’d grab a leaf from a tree and hold it for a while. I posted about it, and moms were texting me, ‘That’s so good.’
Screen time really does bring aggression — it’s studied, it’s proven. We can see it, which can happen when we take an iPad away from a 2-year-old (it happened to mine). Getting kids outside, researching what it looks like for your family to be healthy. And good filters to be safe online.[Technology] is a big part of our world. The beautiful thing is we can make our life what we decide is best for our family. What does that look like for us? What does my kid need right now?
WACOAN: And for young moms, specifically?
Wible: Live your life instead of watching everyone else’s life. Live your life without comparison. This is difficult to do, I know, especially with social media, Pinterest, blogs, all the noise telling us to ‘be this’ and ‘raise our family like this.’ But as we begin to pull back from the noise and live our own unique, without-rival life, we see comparison turn into connection. We will be connected to those around us rather than comparing ourselves to them.
I would also say to not be a slave to others’ requests, whether it’s through technology or not. Give yourself grace. Give yourself space. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t have to answer every message right that second. Meet the needs right in front of you. Our priorities begin to line up when that happens. Many of us function as on call doctors to our technology.
I’m still learning this and had to learn the hard way, being a yes person. I’ve always had a hard time saying no, but I’m learning how freeing that it is for me. My husband is the no person, so we’ve taught one another a lot during our 16-year marriage.
WACOAN: Anything else?
Wible: If we take a step away from our technology, as we step away from all the noise, then we’re gonna see some real direction. As a culture, we’re gonna get some direction, and it will bring us into healthy places.
That’s one way that I had to look into my own life. I started Talk More Tech Less because I took an internal look. Take a look inside instead of numb, numb, numb; mouth off, mouth off. It’s harder to look internally, but that’s where the healing is going to come for us.