CCFC staff enjoy lunch on a sunny day during Screen-Free Week
One of the great joys of Screen-Free Week is that it’s a brand new experience every year – whether this is your first, third, or tenth time unplugging, there’s always something new to learn! Here’s what the CCFC staff discovered about ourselves, our screens, and what it means to unplug during Screen-Free Week 2019.
Our time is ours, and we have more of it than we think
On the first day of Screen-Free Week, CCFC program coordinator Sam Garin and executive director Josh Golin made the same startling discovery: we actually do have time to do the things we love! For Sam, the realization came when she dug up an old literary textbook from high school. “It was full of all these poems I loved and hadn’t read in years,” she says. “I spent Monday night just reading poetry, and at 9 I looked up and realized I could still do chores and get to bed early – I had so much time!”
Josh noticed a change on the first day, too: “Everything felt easier,” he says, “from getting everyone out the door in the morning to cooking, eating, and cleaning up after dinner. I wasn’t stressing out, rushing from task to task – even the annoying things like bringing an overflowing recycling bin down two flights of stairs felt not-annoying, and once they were done, I had all this time to do actually fun stuff like read or play games with my family.”
Our brains can be really, really loud
“I was walking to the train, and I was really committed to not being on my phone,” says Darshana Shakya, CCFC’s operations coordinator. “And my mind started racing with all of these questions that I suddenly felt like I needed to look up, even though I knew it wasn’t actually urgent. I really wanted that instant gratification from knowing the answer.” She didn’t look up anything her brain was telling her to, but resisting the urge was definitely not easy.
Communications manager Melissa Campbell had a similar experience, but unlike Darshana, couldn’t resist: “I started Screen-Free Week fresh off a breakup, and at one point, I literally thought If you just looked at some funny tweets you would feel better,” she says. “I mean, that’s just not true! But the pull was so strong that more than once I found myself scrolling aimlessly through my timeline, reading the same tweets over and over again. My brain kept telling me Twitter would help, even as it was actively not helping!”
We’re never actually Screen-Free, even when we really want to be
During Screen-Free Week, CCFC staff used screens to check the weather, look up bus times, pay bills, talk to far-away friends and family, find recipes, play music, and countless other little tasks that felt like they should be discrete, but actually acted as a gateway to not-utilitarian screen use. “Smartphones aren’t made to just let you do one thing,” says Josh, noting that having to look at his screen often interrupted otherwise serene moments. “Having an actual phone-free week would probably be much more peaceful and smooth, but would take so much more prep.”
A “successful” Screen-Free Week is different for everyone
Since almost no one can be literally screen-free, even for a week, the “success” of Screen-Free Week is up to the person celebrating! For CCFC’s screen time program manager, Jean Rogers, success meant finding new ways to relax and restore: “My husband and I are so wiped out at the end of the day, especially with long commutes, that we just want to crash in front of the TV,” she says. “It’s our default relaxation! So this week, we really focused on finding other things to do, like listening to the radio together, reading in front of the fire, or playing piano and singing together. I thought, why don’t we do this more?”
For campaign manager David Monahan, a successful Screen-Free Week is all about balance. “I think of screens as junk food,” he says, “and make room for it in my day the way I make room for mochas in my diet. Screen-Free Week is a time where I can kind of check in, like, oh, is this actually balanced? Am I actually in control?”
And even when our goals were concrete, they often led to other surprises: “My goal was no social media,” says Darshana, “but it turned out that that revealed this other goal, which was about restoring connection – finding those moments where you and your family might have been looking at a screen, but now you’re spending time with each other instead.”
Sam agrees. “I wanted to stop checking news sites compulsively,” she says, “and be really intentional that if I was using my phone, it was to connect, not to consume. I definitely feel like I succeeded, because I usually felt good whenever I put my phone down.”
We want to hear about your Screen-Free Week! What did you notice, encounter, or discover? How will you carry it with you? Send us a note – or a photo, video, audio message, poem, painting, or anything else! – at email@example.com and tell us all about it.