Screenless Saturdays

This winter has been rough! How rough? Yesterday, I was eye-level with a rabbit. He was sitting on a snow bank in front of our window. He left a deposit.

I probably wouldn’t have noticed him had I been looking at my phone. This weekend I took a day off of screens (television, phone, computer) and it made for an interesting day. It interrupted my usual schedule but in a way that turned out more productive, as you might expect.

I Made My High School Students Do It

The assignment was self-imposed but it was also imposed on my students this year. We had just come out of reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline where this kid essentially is sent on a virtual and real world adventure to collect a prize that will bring his fortune. All the interactions he has are based on the creator’s obsession with 1980s media. At the end of the assignment, I give two choices to write on:

  1. You can write an essay/review on what is was like to experience the media of the ’80s
  2. You can write an essay on our current culture’s reliance on technology

For either option, the students have to relate their experience (playing Pacman for a high score for example) to how it relates to the book. They must also include an outside source. For the second option, I specify that they must give up some aspect of a “twitch” type of interaction with their phone.

Look! No screen!

What is a Twitch Activity?

Twitch activities are those that you do to immediately avoid feeling bored for two seconds.

  • checking your phone for social media updates or pings
  • playing a game or scrolling through a news feed or Pinterest on your phone
  • turning on the television during dinner

This was the first year that none the students took option two. This waved a red flag for me and so I forced another assignment on them in the form of a Screenless Saturday or Sunday.

What is a Screenless Saturday or Sunday?

The Minimalists (Joshua Fields-Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus), promoted “Screenless Saturdays” this year. Here are the rules:

Social-Media Fast. Avoid all social media all day Saturday.

Digital Downtime. Avoid your computer screens, too.

Truly Screenless. Avoid all glowing screens. Yes, even your phone.

I gave my students a similar assignment this year and I have one more weekend before all the results are in.

Giving Screenless Saturday a Try

You will be picking one day of the weekend days (Saturday or Sunday) in the coming three weekends to go completely screenless. This means no phones, televisions, movie theaters, computers, or tablets. Basically anything that has a screen you have to interact with is off limits.

On paper (remember paper?), you will answer the following questions.

  1. How did this change your morning? What would you normally be doing? What did you do instead?
  2. Did you feel incomplete somehow? Why?
  3. How did you occupy your time during the rest of the day?
  4. What other, unexpected, things happened as a result of not having screen time?

What I Did on My Screenless Saturday

I usually check my news feed right away in the morning. This absence of information made me wish I had a newspaper subscription. However, I don’t like the mess of newspapers, the waste, and aside from the Lifestyle section and the comics and crossword, I rarely get a positive vibe from reading the news. This is true of digital or print versions. Perhaps it’s time to disengage or at least severely limit my exposure.

Instead, I put last night’s dishes away, I folded laundry (it had been sitting a week), and I finished a book while the girls and I snuggled in bed. My husband (who wasn’t going screenless that day) and I cleaned the house and ran a few errands and honestly, talked a little more than we usually do.

I called my mom and talked for about an hour, I went to a TEDx audition, we visited with a friend for a couple of hours, and we went out to eat without pacifying the children with the iPhone or tablet (this went surprisingly well).

What I Got Out of the Experience

I think I could probably go screenless every Saturday. I got so much done and I was afraid that the time away from my computer would stunt my growth as a writer. What it really did was give me time to take a breather and then restart refreshed. It also made to consider using Amazon Dot (Alexa) as an alarm instead of my phone, which I usually take into bed with me after I wake up.

This month, I had to get back onto Facebook for a course I’m taking. I haven’t looked through my social scroll at all and I am only working through the Facebook group page for my course. I’ll be glad to only post to my blog page on Facebook from now on. I miss checking in with people from Facebook but overall, I find Facebook to be destructive to my self-esteem. This is not true for all people but if it is true for you, feel free to check out my post on social media.

One question came up during this practice. Has our world’s paper consumption decreased with the use of digital files? Perhaps I can get to that in another post. Specifically one about reducing paper.

So, what about you? Will you go screenless? If you do, please tell me about your experience in the comments.

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