Countdown to Screen-free Week
Twice a year the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood promotes a weeklong project to promote life unplugged. The Spring round is coming up from April 30 to May 6.
It's once again time for Screen-Free Week (formerly known as TV Turn Off Week prior to the hydra-like proliferation of screens), as promoted by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. This concept is dear to my Luddite heart, but it is seeming all the more important as daily existence in the modern world turns into a protracted experiment with getting strung out on various media. I love it from the perspective of a parent, seeing it as a chance to just hit the reset button on the kids' media consumption and not have to negotiate endlessly over reasonable limits. It eliminates the debate. It allows kids a chance to really get into other things and not always be counting down to the next plug in or feeling withdrawal from the most recent virtual experience. It can be somewhat more complicated for adults, given that screens are not exactly optional these days for getting things done. I tend to unplug when I go on vacation, so it sounds like a little holiday. And yet, it's not so realistic to just sign off without a physical removal. So that can be more problematic, turning into using media only for work and no fun. But on that count, it's good to think about it from a grown up mental health point of view. This TED talk by Sherry Turkle really speaks to what the project for the week can be. Reclamation of solitude. Reestablishment of interior space. (Plus all those other outward projects I know you have in mind.)
Yes, yes, I'm aware of the irony of promoting this concept and demi-event by means of the internets, but isn't that just the point? It's become the default way of reaching everyone, of reaching out period. But without deeper consideration. This is a chance to detox and contemplate balance. As well as just get non-virtual stuff done. So, think about whether and how you might implement this. Baby steps. No need to make it into torture. Try daytime screen fasting. Just turn the machines off and log on at a set time for a reasonable interval. And turn it all off again. Unimaginable? Then try setting up an activity where you really have to unplug and just participate. I have heard it reported that current college students cannot conceive of doing without their devices for 24 hours and that their version of a fast they can conceive of is 1 hour. (Ever hear of methadone?) But whether you need to set clear boundaries for the activity within the field of life or can only manage to constrain yourself for a short time, do give it a chance.
Anyway, it has been done (cf the recent documentary Play Again). Sometimes it means replacing the digital delights with amped up nature (like hard core back country). Sometimes it just means getting reacquainted with the homey confines of one's own skull. It was after all enough for the likes of Thomas Jefferson. It's not like total sensory deprivation. In fact, it's like sensory re-integration.