Hi my name is Robert and I’m addicted to screens. How do I know this? I habitually check social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I feel phantom vibrations as I eagerly await the latest notification or text. Google is my best friend and I find it hard to answer the simplest query without consulting the all powerful search engine. Sometimes I feel like I communicate with my wife and daughters more through text message than face to face. Often the last thing I do before I go to bed or get up in the morning is check my iphone. If I go into the office and the internet is down, chances are I will go home. I shop online, bank online, pay bills online, get news online, do almost everything online. My smart phone is my alarm clock, my wrist watch, my calculator, my date book, my note pad. There have been days when I have accidently left my phone at home or the office and felt like a part of me was missing. Oftentimes when I have a choice between silence, reading a book, prayer, going for a walk or staring mindlessly at my phone, I will choose the latter. I have a problem.
I know I am not alone. Everywhere I go I see the same behaviour in others; people chained to their phones, tablets and laptops. We know what it’s doing to us but it’s like we can’t stop. In our never ending quest to be more connected, we are becoming more and more disconnected from each other, the world around us, from God and even from ourselves. But I digress. I’m not saying anything we all haven’t heard before. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the technology. It’s great and enables us to do some pretty cool things. And I don’t want to be too preachy about all this but I decided to do something about my addiction. I decided I want to own the technology and not let the technology own me.
To be fair, technology, screens and social media are such a big part of my life, and all of our lives. Quitting “cold turkey” is not an option. And again I’m not anti-tech. I just need a break, a chance to unplug and disconnect. I need a sabbath.
Yes Sabbath, that Old Testament term that has been so muddied, misunderstood and misused in the Christian tradition. It doesn’t fit well in our modern world either where we are driven to work constantly or where even our “downtime” is programmed and penciled into our calendars. Our leisure time is more of chore than sabbath rest. What I needed was a sabbath.
So I came up with the idea of Screenless Sabbath, a day with no screens, no emails or texts, no status updates or tweets, no selfies or posts. The day that worked best for me was Saturday. It’s a relatively quiet day in our house. It’s a sleep in, sip coffee, farmer’s market, and laze around kind of day. It made perfect sense for this to be the day that I go screenless.
I informed my family but I didn’t expect them to join me although they were welcome to if they wanted. I didn’t want my quirks and pet projects to impose on them. So a caveat was needed. TV and movie screens would not be included. This is something we often do together as a family. Netflix binge watching of Dexter with my wife, Shark Week with my youngest daughter, and family Big Brother viewing were to be excluded from my sabbath.
I am three weeks in now and in my next post I will update on my progress, if that’s the right word. Hint: it’s been pretty damn hard!!!