Ok, I know, an 8 Hour Digital Media Fast, Big Deal….
But it was a big deal! Have you ever tried a digital media fast? To not look at a screen for 8 hours while you were awake? And awake and at home for a good chunk of the time? It ain’t as easy as it should be! At least not at first, it did get easier (and ended up being quite enjoyable). But at first it was pretty hard to resist picking up my phone to see if there were any texts, to check my email, to see what was going on in the worlds of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, to play a quick game of Scrabble or check my Yahoo! weather app (even when I’m outside I love checking it – what’s up with that?).
It made me realize how many times a day I look at my phone. For those of you who know me, this may surprise you as I LOATHE talking on the phone. But I love my phone for all the not-just-a-phone things it does. In addition to my beloved iPhone, I also have a Samsung Galaxy Note tablet (freaking awesome, by the way, thanks for the BDay gift, John!), and a laptop computer. Oh yeah, and the t.v. in the living room (although, I’m happy to report, we broke up with cable a while back and now just have a ROKU – also awesome, by the way). I am on the computer or my tablet a lot, working on school work and business development stuff and trying to create a website and social media streams that people will find helpful and enjoyable. I do try to break away from time to time. We go for a walk as a family (me, John, and Buster) every night where no cell phones or technology of any sort are allowed (not even for Buster. Well, except for his microchip).
The good ole days…
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is inherently bad to work on computers, it’s not evil. It’s how the world operates now-a-days. The thing I started to realize, though, was that I never seemed to DISCONNECT from all of the digital media for longer than our walks. I always had that damn phone within an arms length so I could check emails, scroll through Feedly or Flipboard, play Scrabble, text some nonsense to someone. And I felt like I ALWAYS needed to be DOING something. I couldn’t just wait in a line and sit with my thoughts or veg out on a lounge chair in the backyard without having something TO DO, to fidget with, to preoccupy myself.
Why did I always need to be preoccupied? It wasn’t always like that. I didn’t always need to be DOING SOMETHING every waking hour. I was always an imaginative child. I once thought I would be a globe-trotting photographer for National Geographic and would stake out squirrels in my backyard with a camera my grandfather gave me for HOURS at a time. Just lying in the grass, not moving, stalking the subjects of my huge photo spread for the next issue. While technically was DOING something (I was building my portfolio), I was also fantastically not doing anything but taking in my surroundings. The ants crawling on a nearby twig, the birds chirping, the feel of the grass along my scraped up knees, the smell of all the flowers in our gardens, the clouds racing across the sky. I loved those moments. I still do, when I take the time to notice them.
Boredom can be a good thing….
I first started thinking about all of this when I read a post by Mark Sisson on boredom. He talked about how we don’t get bored anymore. Or, probably more accurately, how we feel a need for constant stimulation. I think that need for constant stimulation actually makes us feel more bored now than we ever did before we had a constant onslaught of digital media. In it’s rare absence, we don’t know what to do with ourselves.
But that’s just it. Learning what to do with ourselves. Being that kid lying in wait for the squirrels again. As Mark stated, if we do that, if we remove all the superfluous stimulation, “we might start to notice details we never have – pictures in the grain of a wooden window sill, the growth of plantings in the yard. We begin to reflect in ways we often miss – examining the arc of our lives, the growth of our kids. We’re open to what’s in front of us – or perhaps what lies deep within us. Either way, we can lose ourselves in that state and access something rich.” It’s what I mean by disconnecting to reconnect. Reconnect with nature. Reconnect with yourself. And through that reconnection, your connections with your loved ones grow richer for it because you are changed. You are a better you.
Disconnect to Reconnect
I feel like a better me after my 8 hour digital media fast. And I am going to continue the practice. Obviously not all day every day but a couple times a month on the weekends I’m going to try and go all day without a screen. At least 8 hours, hopefully sometimes I’ll even hit 24. And I’m going to continue our nightly walks with no screens allowed. And it may sound silly, but I’m going to try really hard to look at only one screen at a time. That means if we’re watching Netflix, my phone and tablet are tucked away where I can’t see or hear them. It means if I’m working on projects for school or work or the website, I’m not checking my phone, too.
Also, no phone during meals. I think this is especially important when we’re out to eat with friends. We’ve done the game where you make everyone put their phones in the center of the table when we’re at a restaurant – the first person to reach for their phone has to pick up the whole check. But no matter the meal or the place, or if we’re playing the game or not, no phone for me. I’m going to listen to every bit of the conversation and give my loved ones my full attention, I’m going to enjoy and savor every bite of the food without taking pictures of it or tweeting about it.
And I’m going to get bored. And see what I come up with. Maybe I’ll stalk the squirrels in the backyard with John’s 35mm camera. Or just lie in the grass and look at the clouds and see what happens.
Are you up for a digital media fast?
Go ahead and try it, you may be surprised at what it does for you. From improved sleep to less anxiety and stress to more meaningful interactions, breaking away from our screens a bit can do wonders. The folks over at Paleo Diet Lifestyle have put together a little guide for media fasting – check it out here. It’s not an all-or-none proposition, do what works for you!!
Thanks for reading my post!