Years ago, I went to see a movie in an actual theater, on a big screen. They had this really clever ad in the lead-up to the movie where you saw all this action and excitement… and then slowly the action and excitement began shrinking.
It shrank and shrank away until it all took place in a tiny box in the middle of the screen.
And then above it appeared gigantic words, and I’m paraphrasing here, but basically they said: “don’t let your entertainment shrink down to this.”
That’s one of the last movies I ever saw in the theater.
Clearly, their plea of “keep coming to the movies!” didn’t work well on me.
For years our lives have been slowly, insidiously being taken over by tiny screens.
Maybe you have found the same thing in your life.
Over three or four years I’ve noticed:
- A sense of panic if I don’t have my phone on or near me
- Despite my best efforts, trouble concentrating on the people who are right in front of me because the screen in my hand beckons
- Hand, wrist, and forearm pain, seriously irritated by swiping, tapping, and pinching screens
Today I want to share the story of what Ben and I are doing, in our home, to reclaim the big action and excitement. I hope it helps you see a path towards taking control of screen time in your home!
It started when I began reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. I started off thinking “this doesn’t really apply to me, I will investigate this for the parents that I serve.”
And what I discovered shocked me. It really DOES apply to me.
This book boils down to the idea that humans need to be bored. We need to not continually be distracted, we need silence and time to just be in our own thoughts.
Without this, we become anxious and ill.
Cal also refers to something he calls “the lopsided arms race,” the vast array of websites, apps, and other distractions that have learned to exploit various human needs.
They’ll shout about how great they are at helping us “stay connected.”
They’ll tempt us with the idea that we “don’t want to miss out.”
They’ll say “all your friends are binging on this, you should too!”
Because of our human need to feel connection, to belong – to feel included – we jump right in.
And some amount of months or years later, we realize we feel less connected, more anxious. We notice aches and pains, both physical and mental, and we’re not sure how they came to be, or what to do about them.
Cal’s advice: “go cold turkey.”
Quit all optional technologies. Not forever, but for 30 days. Enough time to understand their place in our lives..
So, on my birthday a few weeks ago, Ben and I did exactly that!
We’ve spent 2 solid weeks without Netflix, Reddit, HBO, Amazon prime video, YouTube, and favorite entertainment podcasts like Mission to Zyxx and The Adventure Zone.
We’ve had discussions about what constitutes “optional” technology. (In the end, our teenagers came up with the best idea: that Ben and I each agree to let the other one come up with their definition of optional technology. This has meant that I keep some podcasts because they pertain to my work, and it also meant that Ben reads the newspaper digitally.)
We’ve had discussions about what it means to be “comfortable with our own thoughts.”
We have certainly had some frustrating moments.
Particularly in the evenings, when we just want to power down with screeny distraction.
But we’ve also had some incredible things happen, things I would never have guessed:
– Because I am not using my hand and forearm energy on tapping, swiping, and pinching, I have been able to knit more. It’s a beautiful thing : )
–- Ben has read 2 novels! It’s his first fiction in years, possibly decades. One of these novels is a favorite book of mine (Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman) and one of the joys of this digital reset so far was talking together about this book.
– We have played table/board games, including an epic game of Jenga which ended in a draw as we used every single available piece without bringing down the tower. Our youngest was so excited that he videotaped our game!
– We have had many wonderful, thoughtful discussions. These have ranged from family budget-type conversations to sharing our deepest and most vulnerable selves.
– We have spent more time outside, more time standing up and moving around. Seriously I did not realize how sedentary I was before the digital reset.
We’re only two weeks in,
and there is every possibility that we will get derailed somehow.
But I’m hoping not. I want to get to the end of this reset with a feeling of accomplishment, the feeling that we were successful at something we set out to do: cut out optional technologies for 30 days.
I’m nervous about what comes next, when we determine how we will fit screens back into our lives.
But I know I’m not going back to the bad old days. Being outside of screens, I am now realizing how much they ruled my life.
I’m realizing how much more connected I feel.
How much I belong with the most beloved people in my life.
How the lopsided arms race distracted me from the most important people in my life.
How what I’ve been missing out on is time with those people.
I’m having SO much fun. I’m never going back.
If you’re feeling disconnected from your kiddos, or your parenting partner – or yourself – I highly recommend a digital reset.
And if you have done one, or you’re currently doing one, please let me know how it’s going!
Keep reading below for What’s up on the podcast/on YouTube/in the Facebook group… And for the picture of the week!
Wishing you a wonderful parenting week!
What’s up on the podcast this week:
Mom and author Meagan Wilson shares her wisdom about family, seasons, and the wonderful rhythms we can find in life.
Click weturnedoutokay.com/276 to listen!
What’s up on my YouTube channel this week:
Our usual Thursday YouTube live is off this week, returning Thursday, May 9. But there’s lots of back episodes of the Parents How-Two videos I do in there each week!
Check out my YouTube channel by clicking here.
What’s up in the We Turned Out Okay Facebook group this week:
Each Monday at 10:30 a.m. EST, I do a superquick Facebook live that I call “Magic Words for Parents”… This week I shared one way to foster your child’s independence. Click here to join the Facebook group : )
Picture of the week:
There are all kinds of different adventures, and I wanted to share this image from a sunset cruise I got to take, in Newport, Rhode Island, with the girls from Episode 0 of We Turned Out Okay.
I hope the spring brings wonderful adventures for you and your family.
PS – If you’re enjoying this Weekly Parenting Newsletter, sign up to receive it in your inbox, or forward it to a friend who needs a parenting boost today.