To commemorate Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, we decided to turn all the electric lights and ban electronic devices at sunset.
Because we already spend a lot of time in each other company and we have a longstanding rule about no screens during mealtimes, I didn’t expect our candlelight Solstice celebration to have that much of an effect. We aren’t one of those couples who spends more time looking at their phones than looking into each other eyes (in a completely non-creepy way). We probably only watch three hours of television/movies per week, and I’m sure I’m overestimating that figure (it’s not unusual for us to go a whole week without turning on the television at all). With that said, we spend a ton of time online. There are several YouTube channels we subscribe to, plus all the extra random videos we watch, time spent on forums and reading blogs and checking FaceBook and playing games and reading news articles and getting lost on reddit and… The crux of it is, these are all different things, so it feels like I’m not just doing one thing for several hours, in contrast to binging on Netflix.
That electronics-free evening we had in the dead of winter was definitely a wake-up call for us. It was as though there had been this third person in the room who we could turn to during lulls in conversation, who could entertain us and draw our attention away from ourselves and our immediate surroundings at a moment’s notice. With all our devices shut off, we became suddenly aware of how alone we were in the flickering shadows of candlelight. Suddenly, we were no longer connected to the 2 billion people who use the Internet everyday. As a result, we became more connected to each other.
I think it would be hopelessly ineffectual for us to say to each other, “Well, let’s just try to spend a little less time online.” On the other hand, it seems iron-fisted to proclaim, “We will only allow ourselves X time in front of screens per day.” We’d probably end up watching the clock manically (until our resolve petered out) and it would sort of defeat the purpose of replicating that feeling of stillness and tranquility we had on Winter Solstice.
Our solution is to set aside one day per week without electronic distractions. We’ll also be using candles instead of electric lights simply because candles are romantic and call to mind an era when the difference between night and day was still keenly felt. Who knows, maybe insomnia wouldn’t be such a widespread problem in our society if we were forced to start winding down at sunset. All our devices have enabled us to multitask 24 hours a day, but we want to slow things down and be more deliberate in how our time is spent.
Anyway, here are the items that will be banned in our household on Fridays:
- Phones (no calls, no texts, and most significantly to me, no Words with Friends)
- Television / Movies
- Radio / Pandora
- Computers / iPads
- Video Games
What electric devices can we use? The heating system and kitchen appliances (and of course our car, in case there was any doubt). We are also making exceptions for audiobooks and the Kindle (it’s an old classic version). I foresee our Fridays being spent reading books, going for walks, working on hobbies, and playing games together.
I won’t lie to you, it’s going to be a challenge. The reason this has become so important is that it really shouldn’t be a challenge. It shouldn’t be hard to turn your focus inward to your own family. That’s how I know something is wrong with this new normal. My hope is that Screen Free Fridays will bring us that much closer to a life filled with clarity and intention, with less distractions and stronger bonds between the people who matter most to us. Sometimes, we need to disconnect to reconnect in today’s digital world.