Disconnect: An Experiment with Screenless Sundays

In today’s world, we are constantly connected. Our phones and computers have the ability to immerse us in another world entirely. We turn to social media and the internet for validation and answers. While often these devices can be great tools, I believe that sometimes we rely on them too much and lose sight of the things that really matter. These habits have become so ingrained in our society that anything straying from them seems abnormal; for example, not taking your phone with you when you leave the house, not checking your texts on an hourly or daily basis, or not being able to receive the instant gratification of a solution when you want to search something online.

This past Sunday, I decided to go screenless–well almost. I didn’t turn on my phone or computer the entire day, but I did use my iPad to read a pre-downloaded Kindle book and I had the WiFi turned off, as well as I used my smart TV to livestream church and I ended up watching a movie on Netflix later in the evening. But these two exceptions suited my goals of a screen free day–it’s not so much the screens themselves that are the problem, it’s the contents inside them. Watching a movie or reading a book for me is pure enjoyment and doesn’t stress me out like social media might. For me, it was being disconnected from WiFi and the Internet entirely that made the difference. Throughout the day, I find myself wondering who was texting me, what people were posting on their Instagram stories, or if any of my friends had logged a run on Strava. But all of those things can wait 24 hours. So I decided to take a day to myself and disconnect entirely.

At first, I wondered what I was ever going to do with my time, but I soon filled it with meaningful and restful activities that made for a perfect Sunday. So what did I do? Well, I accomplished a lot. I started my day by deep-cleaning my apartment. This is something I generally do throughout the week instead of altogether in one day, but I figured that I might as well make use of the screenless time I had. It took me about 2 hours, but I was so satisfied afterwards.

Now sitting peacefully in my ultra clean apartment, I paused to livestream church. This was also an eye opening experience because I’ll admit that sometimes online church can have many distractions. It’s easy to reach for your phone when the sermon gets dry, but I found myself fully focused and able to absorb the teachings better this Sunday. When I used to attend church in-person, I would never even bring my phone into the building because there was no need for it, but when church came to my apartment, my phone hadn’t moved. It was still there, waiting to distract me from the important scriptures I need to take in.

After church, I decided to take a walk to the grocery store that is about 10 minutes away from my apartment. I had already done my large weekly grocery trip on Saturday, but there were 3 items that the store I went to didn’t have, so I went to quickly pick them up. The walk was so peaceful, and I found myself fueled with ideas–blog post and YouTube video ideas, random thoughts, and questions I wanted to search on the internet. I stopped at Panera to grab an iced coffee (which is currently free thanks to the monthly coffee subscription free trial they offer!) and I found myself wondering if there was a Panera near where I’m planning to move in August in DC. Normally, I would pull out my phone and search Maps, but I didn’t have this luxury on Sunday and would have to patiently wait until Monday to see if I would be blessed with cheap iced coffee in my next city. This instant gratification we have from being able to access the answer to any question immediately is dangerous–it takes away our self-control and patience. Something as simple as wondering about a potential Panera location drove me crazy all day, and I considered turning on my phone just to look up the answer to this harmless question; however, if I did that, I would be giving in to the temptation of receiving what I want immediately. This sensation reminded me of how we are wired to crave certain foods and find ourselves unable to resist eating them. We’ve developed similar cravings for technology, and this can’t be healthy because while we need food to survive, we don’t NEED technology so we shouldn’t be constantly craving it.

After returning home from Panera, I read a little bit of the novel I’ve been reading for the past two days–The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I read for about an hour and then decided I wanted some more adventures outside of my apartment without my phone, just for the thrill of it. So I decided to browse some stores, even though I had only a small intention of purchasing anything. I headed to Best Buy to look at cameras, Ulta to check out skincare and makeup products, and then the mall to search for a belt. I ended up only purchasing conditioner at Ulta and nothing at any of the other stores, but I truly enjoyed browsing screenless. I kept some post-it notes and a pencil in my pocket so I could write down anything I thought of throughout the day, such as an item that I want to add to my wish list. I was able to people watch too–and unsurprisingly, almost everyone I observed was glued to their phone.

Returning from my shopping ventures, I was drawn to my book again and I read for about two hours, finishing the book that I had only started two days ago. It was so captivating and I felt lost inside this fictional world. Finishing a book so fast makes you want to read even more, and I wanted to go search Goodreads to research my next book, but yet again I needed the Internet for that and would have to wait until Monday. That’s okay though, because I was getting hungry and decided to make some dinner. I filled myself up with yummy food and then retreated to my couch to watch a movie. I chose The Perfect Date, and it was a great lighthearted movie to end the day. Like I mentioned earlier, I feel that watching a movie is okay during a day of disconnecting because it does not bring me stress and I am purposely choosing to engage in the activity instead of reaching for my phone with no reason. I was pretty tired after the movie and it was about 10pm, so I decided to call it a night and head to bed.

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed my screenless Sunday. I was willing to give up my devices for a day and find tranquility in the unconnected world. I accomplished more than I ever would have with my devices turned on, and I was able to internally reflect on my goals and ambitions as well as come up with some cool new ideas for content creation. I want to implement a tech-free day like this into my weekly routine in order to reset and realize that technology is incredibly useful, but at the same time can be a huge distraction and time suck. Of course, some Sundays it won’t be convenient for me to turn off my phone–such as this upcoming Sunday when I’ll be visiting Chicago! But on any normal weekend, I’ll definitely opt for a screenless Sunday.

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