Meet the McMillans. They’re like a lot of families — young, unmarried, with two kids, a boy and a girl — with one notable exception: They live every day like it’s 1986. Not in some vague, listen-to-The Bangles-and-wear-some-Spandex-every-once-in-a-while kind of way, but in a deliberate and drastic and all-encompassing kind of way. The McMillans, at home, have given up all technology that was introduced to the world after 1986.
Yes. Which means: phones, but no iPhones. Videos, but no DVDs. Video games, but no Xboxes. Photos, but no Instagrams. TV, but no cable. Coffee, but not from new-fangled machine. For a year that started in April, the Toronto Sun reports in a profile of the ’80s-tastic family, the McMillans have been doing their banking in person. They’ve been entertaining themselves with books. They took a family road trip this summer, and navigated using paper maps — and kept the kids entertained with coloring books and stickers.
And their excellent adventure doesn’t end with technology alone. Blair McMillan, family patriarch, has doubled down on his Back to the Future lifestyle: For one very major thing, he wears a mullet. (“Business in front, party in the back,” he explains.) His kids do, too.
So. Yes. You might be asking why a family that is not currently the subject of an M. Night Shyamalan movie would adopt a lifestyle that is as aggressively retrograde as this one. You might also be wondering whether this is a hoax or, at the very least, a publicity ploy. It’s not, Blair McMillan insists. While he is considering writing a book about his year of living fluorescently, the point of the technological cutoff, he says, has been to reclaim some of his family life from technology. The experiment started, Blair notes, with something that will make the McMillans familiar to a lot of families: a vague sense that gadgets were cheating their children out of their childhoods. Earlier this year, Blair says, he was hanging out outside the house, and he asked his 5-year-old son Trey to join him. Trey refused. He was too busy with his iPad.
“That’s kind of when it hit me,” Blair tells the Sun, “because I’m like, wow, when I was a kid, I lived outside.”
That’s when he and Morgan decided to drastically de-techify their lives. They gave up their cell phones. They deleted their Facebook accounts. They cut the cable. They established a box for visitors to stash their phones, tablets, and other gadgets while hanging out in the McMillan home. And they dealt, in the process, with friends and family and business associates who (reasonably) questioned their newfound lifestyle choices. While Morgan uses a computer at work, Blair, he says, has taken things farther — to the extent that he’s lost business. (Imagine if you were reliant on fax machines for document transmissions). And he’s had trouble getting more work, as well, because so many workplaces now only accept job applications online.
Then again, Blair points out, the cost of living is pretty nice when you’re not paying for cable and Internet and data plans. “It’s way cheaper,” Blair says. Plus, “everybody just gives me stuff.”
So why 1986, you ask? Because that was the year Blair and Morgan were born. “We’re parenting our kids the same way we were parented for a year just to see what it’s like,” Blair explains. One concession they’ve kept to the present, however: their car. The McMillans, before April 2013 and after it, have driven a 2010 Kia. But — 1986! — they don’t use GPS.
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