Week 26: Get (un)Screened!
by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action
When my kids were 7 and 10, we were stressed out about how much time they were spending on screens. Whether TV, video games, or phones, it seemed they were always staring at something. My husband joked their eyes would turn rectangle-shaped. And so we launched what we called the “no screen challenge”. We created incentives for increments of time they went without any screens. They could stop at any time, but if they kept going, the prizes got bigger. Ironically, all that time I spent watching game shows as a kid paid off! I built a pyramid of prizes, starting with 1 day without any screens (gum), up to two months without screens (day trip adventure, their choice). I stopped there, because I figured there was no way they would make it to two months. Well, they did. To our utter amazement, they did. And so, we spent a day at Wonderland, with all the bells and whistles. I only wish I’d been smart enough to keep going, because that was the last time they wanted to take on the “no screen challenge”! This week, we’re going to try the same thing at your house. No, we’re not asking you to pack it all in for two months! We’re trying one night at first. And maybe, if you find it isn’t as horrible as you imagine, keep it going.
Challenge 26: Go screenless for one evening.
No TV, no computer, no devices, no checking email or texts. Turn off your phone. Connect with your friends and family instead. Something really lovely happens when you turn off your screens. I get the same feeling when the power goes out (at least for the first couple of hours!). There’s a peace that settles in. A kind of letting you off the hook of having to be in constant contact, or having to make “busy” work out of every moment. Or having to respond to someone else’s sense of urgency. The hum of daily life subsides, and you’re left with just each other. My grandmother had a saying that I wholeheartedly embrace. She said “the phone is there for my convenience, not someone else’s”. If I need to contact someone, I can. If it’s not convenient right now (another one of her sayings), I can choose to ignore it. Genius. And for her, it was just turning off the ringer. Now, going radio silent is more of a challenge. Maybe you’re a person who feels really uneasy with your phone off. That’s OK - settle into it. You’re going to be fine. Remember, we’ve only had smart phones attached to us for about a decade. We all survived then without them. You’ll be OK! So will your kids (especially your teenagers), who may feel differently. Notice that emotion - is it healthy? Is it realistic to be plugged in 100% of the time? Your ego will try to coerce you that you are too important to be offline for a whole night. Resist the temptation. The world will continue to turn without your “likes” for a few hours. An interesting study came out this week that showed people who abandoned Facebook for a week were happier, slept better and generally were more positive. Those who dove into facebook reported feeling depressed, pessimistic, frustrated, angry, and overwhelmed. You may not even realize how draining it is with all those opinions flying around. Are you being informed, or are you being used? Do you actually “like” any of what you read, or is it just wasting your time? We got sold a bill of goods when we heard that technology was going to give us more freedom from the office. Is that what happened? Or are we now expected to respond to every email or call whenever they happen? It sure feels like the idea of “home time” and “office time” have become blurred together, so now, regardless of what you’re doing, you’re never off the clock. Germany implemented an amazing law that bosses are not allowed to contact employees outside of office hours. Yes - it’s actually illegal for your boss to email you on the weekend, and expect a response. More genius! A caveat: If you are someone whose response time is immediate, make sure you inform friends and family that you are going offline for the night, so your absence doesn’t alarm anyone! Turn on your out of office notification. It’s time for some work/life balance. My family has tried a no screen night once a week, many times, with varying degrees of success. So I’ll share with you the successes and failures from our attempts, in the hope that you avoid some of our pitfalls. Pitfall 1: Don’t make it a big production, or you’ll burn out fast. Plan a simple activity together, a meal at the table, prepping and cleaning up together. Play a game everybody likes. Go for a hike. Maybe you play instruments and like to sing together. No one said a campfire atmosphere can’t happen indoors (or outdoors for that matter). Keep it simple. Pitfall 2: Don’t expect every week to be a high energy night. Some of our best nights were just curling up by the fireplace, everyone with their own book, and reading in the same room. Alone, together. Pitfall 3: Don’t make it rigid. Turning into the screen police is going to get you nowhere. If something comes up, switch nights, so you’re not giving up, but you’re not giving in either. If you really get inspired, turn off the lights too. Embrace the Danish custom “Hygge” - making coziness, comfort and reverence out of ordinary moments. Think warm socks, big blankets, candlelight. I know by now you recognize that using less energy reduces your carbon footprint. But, something else will also happen. You’ll recharge your own batteries. You’ll feel less anxious, less rushed, less pressured. You’ll find that screens actually drain your energy too. And taking a break from them is healthy. Sometimes inspiring. So, be curious, and recharge yourself. Connect with those you love. You may learn some things you didn’t know about them, and maybe about yourself too. Yours in Sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.