Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Screen Free Mondays you know how Dustin and I are always scheming some sort of life change experiment? Well, probably more accurately, how I'm always scheming some sort of life change experiment, and Dustin humors my super-passionate kinda-crazy spirit, and goes along with many of my whims?

Well...yeah. That's a thing. And I'm (we're) at it again.

You see, a few weeks ago, I came up with an idea to revolutionize our lives (again) (some more)! I call it:

Screen Free Mondays!

Awww, yeah.

What's that mean, exactly? You might be asking yourself (Or if you are Dustin: asking me). Well basically it's a commitment to forgo "screen time" all day, one day a week. You see, one thing I've learned about myself over years of tried and failed resolutions, is that I'm not really a "set reasonable limits for myself and see small incremental change" type of person. I'm not great at a slow, steady pace of one good choice after another until it adds up to a better whole. I'm impatient, with a big bias towards action. When I get an idea, I want to do it. Pretty much now, and probably with both feet. But just before that, I want to define it, give it parameters,and make it a thing. 

So when I was sensing that our family had gotten a little too enamored by and entrenched in the glow of our screens (phones, tablets, computers, TV) I knew we could just try to rein it in a little. But no...that's not the Courtney way. Instead, why don't we go for a semi-extreme experiment? With a name? And rules?!

I approached my people with my proposal- "Guys...How do you feel about Screen. Free. MONDAYS?!?! (pause for enthusiastic reactions) (receive no enthusiastic reactions)"

"Ummmm. What? Is that?"
"But I like my tablet!"
"What's 'Mondays'?" we had some education to do.

But quicker than you might imagine, I managed to get everyone on board. I was basically making the rules up as we go, so as the questions kept coming, I kept spitting out half-baked answers.

A day for all of us to take a break from screens, and prioritize time talking, playing reading, etc. etc. etc. together.

Well, because we (mostly the grown up "we's") have gotten a little too attached to our phones and shows and a little too comfortable with a nightly routine of Netflix and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. This will be a good chance to prioritize more social interaction vs. social media, more quality time spent together vs. time in close general proximity to each other, and maybe even a little more progress on all the things we should be doing vs. getting sucked into another episode of 60 Days In (though it is pretty good). (For the record, the kids are screen dependent zombies. The baby thankfully still doesn't know what TV is, and the girls watch a couple shows in the morning while we get ready/they eat breakfast. So they are along for the ride in the name of family solidarity,


Well, because the weekends would be just too dang hard. But weekdays when we have a lot going on might not pose enough of a challenge. Monday nights are usually wide open, so why not make that our chance for together time?

Well, no. How 'bout a month. We can do a month, right?

So there we had it. Screen Free Mondays was/is officially a thing.
And guess what?! We're already 2 weeks in. Yeah I know...If you take a break from social media, but don't post about it on social media, did it even happen? We had to shuffle it to Tuesday in week two because Dustin was traveling on Monday...And a day spent in an airport is pretty much impossible (or at least relatively tortuous) without screens. Plus you know I wasn't making it through a full 24 hours riding solo with three little ones without at least a little bit of technology backup (Holla, Curious George Halloween Special! Thanks for making a shower possible for mama!) But we made it happen.

Depending on your relationship with technology the whole thing might not seem that extreme. After all, it's a day without Facebook, not a season on the Oregon Trail. I'm not sharing this in an effort to earn admiration for my brave crusade. (I mean...unless you want to throw that my way. I'm not turning it down). And I honestly don't think we're actually terribly addicted to least not more than average Americans. But I know how easy it has become for me to absentmindedly scroll through my feeds, while the TV hums in the background. Or to reach for my phone whenever there's a 2.5 second lull in the action of my life. Phones, and feeds and input, input, input have become a constant presence in my day.

So I get that this isn't trophy-worthy, but I am at least a little bit excited/proud about making some effort to shift from mindlessness, to intentional-ity.

Halfway through our first day, I sent Dustin an IM (sanctioned screen use!) complaining:
C: "You have no idea how hard it is for me not to tool around on the side while I'm on this nevvvvvver ending conference call."
D: "I know...I was a few minutes early to a meeting and I just had to stand there."
So, guys:
The struggle is real.
We're fighting the good fight.
And other way over-dramatic cliches that signify how way-too-seriously I take everything.

But it's Screen Free Mondays! A new, and totally real thing that deserves my effort! And theatrics! And total commitment for at least a short period of time, followed by an over-analysis of lessons learned, and then an inevitable abandonment of revised habits, until I freak out and repeat the cycle six months later*.

In case you're interested in joining in (I really sold it, I know), here's where we landed on the somewhat-arbitrary-but-they-make-sense-to-me guidelines:

  • Social Media
  • TV/Netflix/Movies
  • Personal email
  • Web browsing 
  • Games or "Time wasting" apps (pretty much social media, but also fantasy football, 1 second everyday, timehop etc.)
  • Photo editing/blogging
  • Work (email/all other worky work stuff)
  • Texting
  • Taking pictures/videos
  • "Utility apps"- maps, weather, uber, video monitor, etc. 
  • Pandora/Spotify
So, yes, technically we still use screens on Mondays, but the goal is for them to be functional devices that add to our day, not entertainment devices that take away from our real-life opportunities for connection. Work is a given (as much as I'd love a "sorry...I'm not using screens today" pass for all my Monday duties, I'm afraid that wouldn't fly). And all of the "approved" activities on our list are things we already use pretty responsibly (I've never skipping out on playing with my kids because I accidentally got too engrossed in The Weather Channel). Plus, the spirit of the experiment is the important part...I'm trying to improve the quality of our relationships, not become Amish. 

We're two weeks in, three weeks to go (somehow I picked a month with 5 Mondays...figures.) I'll keep you posted on our progress. If irony allows, I may even choose a new hashtag.

* Unfortunately not a hypothetical cycle. I've been working the TV Free Fanfare since 2008. And in 2010. And in 2011. And 2012. (After that I'm pretty sure I did it some more, but maybe mercifully managed to not write about it).
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