A couple weeks ago I ran across an article shared on a Facebook page about “Screen-Free Week”, which occurs this week. I don’t remember if it started Sunday, nor am I sure how long it runs, but as I do “Media-Free” days in my home on occasion, this intrigued me. I figured we would do a version of this and take it as an opportunity to do a number of things. While I didn’t sit down and make a plan, I did run through my head what I envisioned it to look like.
First, what would “Screen-Free” be for us? I need my iPhone for a few basic, but necessary things, like my calendar, the phone (obviously), text messages (when necessary), email and my phonecamera (hey, I’m a photographer, an artist, and I have children, it doesn’t count as a “screen” in that sense). But I also considered “Screen-Free” to mean modes of entertainment that distract us from real-life living. It’s more than just going without looking at a screen. For me, this time is about being present, not only in what we are doing, but in where our intentions lie from moment to moment.
Of course the first and most obvious “screen” we would do without would be the television. As I write this update it is Wednesday morning. My kids came home Sunday and we spent the evening watching the current favorites, knowing that we wouldn’t be watching any more until further notice. I gave the goal of a week, but didn’t really say whether that included the entire seven days or just the work-week. At this point, the television hasn’t been turned on at all since we went to bed Sunday night. And I have to say this has been the easiest part. I don’t miss it at all. And the boys haven’t mentioned it much. That includes video games on the wii or playstation. We have a PS2, one of those old ones, and the first generation wii…still tons of fun, but they typically can go an entire week without playing anyway. So that’s not missed much either.
Next, there are handheld electronics. Their iPods and one DS. Neither of them are missing those either. When I picked them up from their father on Sunday, Seth had his DS in his hand and I reminded him that he couldn’t play it this week, and he said “yeah, that’s fine, I’m just bringing it to your house.” and he hasn’t asked about it all week. Nor have either of them mentioned their iPods. So far, so very good!
This brings me to my own biggest time-suck. Social Media. Facebook in particular. While I can certainly survive without it (as is being proven), I really do utilize it more often than necessary during my day. Sometimes it’s the first thing I do in the morning. Upon waking, I’ll stretch and then do some reading while I “wake up”. I check it periodically throughout the day. If I’m on the computer, I love to read through my “Pages Feed” as it provides me with all the recent articles and blog posts from my favorite blogs and websites, covering the topics I find the most interest in from spirituality, buddhism, homesteading, sustainability, the environment, and so on goes the very long list. It got real easy this winter to hang out in my office over lunch (in the warmth) and read online instead of doing something more productive, like knitting!
Not only the pages feed, but the constant stream of “what-my-friends-are-doing” is certainly a pull too. If someone needs a hug, Facebook tells me and I can send a virtual one. If someone just ate a great new meal, Facebook tells me that too. What is there that I don’t know any more with Facebook to keep me up to date (by the second!) on every little thing that anyone who uses it is doing. In fact, Facebook just sent me an email this morning, telling me that I’m missing out on so much, that there are notifications and events that I’m not seeing because it’s been so long since I’ve logged in. I really don’t consider three days that long. In fact, I feel like I miss out on more when I AM logged in and regularly checking Facebook.
Which brings me to what I really want to tell you about this experience. Hopefully you’ve hung in there and continued reading 🙂
I am so much more present. I’ve always felt pretty aware of what I’m doing, what’s going on around me and in front of me, but I really feel like I’m *doing* what I’m doing. Not just going through the motions, or rushing to get done with anything. For instance, I walked a couple pieces of mail down to the corner box yesterday afternoon. Instead of checking my phone while I walked, I FELT the sun, I SMELLED the many gorgeous flowers blooming all the way down the block. I SMELLED the air. I SAW all the spectacular colors; the leaves coming out and contrasting against the brilliant, blue sky. The pansies in pinks and purples adorning all the planters and window boxes in front of the residences. It was all so beautiful and exactly what I’ve waited all winter long to enjoy. And for those two or three short minutes, I turned it into another extra minute and enjoyed every second of it. I let it all truly soak in. Do we ever really do that?
I’m also sleeping better too. Much better, as in not waking up in the middle of the night unable to get back to sleep kind of better. And this morning? I actually had ten minutes to sit and work on patching a pair of jeans while the boys had breakfast. And we talked.
What else have we been filling our time with? We’ve been reading, hiking, singing, dancing, jumping on the trampoline, playing in the yard, gardening, telling stories and all the many other things we typically fill our time with, except we’ve really been doing it without distractions. Without thinking about all the other things going on. We’ve just been present. And what a present it has been.
At this time, I’m just posting it on the blog. Maybe I’ll convince a friend to share this on my wall so that I don’t have to log in and post it 🙂 Either way, feel free to share it, your thoughts, or anything! Feel free to join me and do your own week free of screens! I’ll be updating more here on the blog at the end of the week. Thanks for reading!