hi there friends....
it has certainly been a while since i gave any update on my journey with digital wellbeing. i have simply been touching too much grass in order to do so...
okay that is a dramatic simplification but that concept rings true. im not the most efficient writer so the thought of staring at my screen for so long trying to write gives me the feeling of dread. instead, i am staring at my keyboard watching my fingers type away, wondering what went wrong in my typing classes at age eight.
today i thought id give a general update as well as the promised exploration into my SCREENLESS DAYZ experiment. im not sure there is too much of a conclusion to be made rather than a set of observations which are continueing to develop over time.
edit: i should probably also throw in the disclaimer that of course i know the SCREENS themselves arent the issue, it is what i am choosing to do on/in/with them and how it is affecting what i want to be doing that is causing me my problems. as i explain below, eradicating screens entirely is more to do with a strange curiosity of mine...
at the end of july i finished the shallows by nicholas carr. it was a brilliant book and i think about it often. one of the strange train i thoughts i had immediately after finishing it is how i wonder what i did in the days where i didnt have screens to look at that connect me to the internet. well...i know what i did, i played with toys and hung out with my friends and brothers in parks, i read, and i made up characters and stories. i couldnt pin point exactly however when i had last gone a whole day, a whole 24 hours, without using screens to access the internet. i think perhaps 2014 on a summer trip? or earlier? i also wouldnt be able to pinpoint a timeframe if we include something like tvs or video games. i sort of have a weird fascination with how people and myself lived before smartphones in particular, or before the internet was an integral to our everyday lives as it is now, perhaps because it seems impossible to go back in a country like england and in the circumstance of life i find myself in. some humans out there have never seen a screen in their lifetime. i imagine someone might read this and think its ludicrous that people cant go without screens or the internet!
i also as a result of reading the shallows began to think about multitasking and my constant need to play music in the background. i think it stimulates my brain in a very easy way but im not so sure anymore that it needs to fill my every silent moment, or become the background noise to writing, cleaning, or drawing. in my job, there is no music and it never bothered me while i worked. nearly two years ago i stopped listening to music on walks, mainly for safety reasons but i found i prefer to be reconnected with my surroundings in this way.
all the things ive done to be less constantly connected to the internet have made me more curious in this way too. where i no longer use a smartphone, i only have internet access when i am at home. this has built up my (for lack of a better term) tolerance for no screens, sometimes going a couple days if im with friends or travelling around. i recall a morning where i woke up before everyone else. previously, i wouldve just been scrolling on my phone (or just sleep more lol) until someone woke up - but on this morning, i enjoyed some breakfast, petted their cat, and lounged around in the sun staring up at the trees. i think i had a nap too.
i imagine if not for these curiosities and my sort of general slowburn into being less connected and distracted a SCREENLESS DAY wouldve been very difficult. i set some ground rules for these DAYZ: i was not to use computers, laptops, video games consoles, tv, radio, cd player or any other device with a screen that connects to the internet or displays media in some way. i included things like the radio and cd player because although these things dont have a screen, as i mentioned, i wanted to see if i could also go without the background distraction of music. i chose sundays to do these DAYZ as i will always have this day off my job, where using a screen is sometimes needed, and because apart from a walk i am almost always simply at home, which is where i am prone to entering the internet and suffer with mindless scrolling.
a major thing i learnt in cal newport's digital minimalism is that if you are to remove something in your life that you do every single day even uncontrollably, which is for me go online, you need to in advance know what youre going to replace it with. on sundays i have a vague general routine i follow - where weather permits ill go for a walk, have breakfast, spend time looking after the pet, etc. ive been doing a major declutter of my home the past couple months so it has been easy to slot this into the majority of the day and get a lot of it done thanks to the lack of other distractions like finding the right music to play for example, and spend other pockets of time doing other tasks or forms of leisure.
ive also been doing seasonal things like picking blackberries and raspberries, and thanks to the free time i bake and such. i found myself being able to do things i would usually put on the backburner too in favour of mindlessly scrolling, such as putting all my collected recipes into one book finally, or other small creative things like that.
a significant thought i had around SCREENLESS DAY 3 is that i have the feelings of being a child again - or rather i felt i was processing things around me and spaces in time in the same sort of way i would as a child. it is very difficult to describe this feeling. i recall just sitting on the floor and flicking through the manuals of my video games, and admiring a steelbook id gotten as a preorder bonus for PLA back in February but never actually properly looked at it. it sounds so silly to write out but it made me realise how little i engage with my physical possessions. i even have a few books ive not even read.
on SCREENLESS DAY 4, i noted how i have become a big fan of staring out my window while i eat. a person i live with has always been very interested in the wildlife around us and making habitats for them. its only now i dont have a screen to look at that i find interest in this. i recently read jenny odell's how to do nothing, and i find her journey into learning about her own bioregionalism while 'doing nothing' similar to mine. i went for a walk recently and realise i dont even know what bird song i hear everyday, which i affect by walking past them, stopping or starting them. i dont know what the tress or bushes i walk past are called.
on this DAY, vodafone also decided it was an excellent time to finally respond to my request to change to PAYG from a contract so i was not completely SCREENLESS as i had to spend some time engaging with the untold horror of topup phone calls. in addition, i live with other people who often have the telly or radio on. i found myself a couple times throughout these DAYZ watching the telly as i joined them or ate.
due to a change in circumstance lately ive had to stop the SCREENLESS DAY prematurely to check emails or messages as i cannot afford not to at this current time. but i have still been able to spend the whole day without the screen, and my use of the laptop is very controlled.
i have noticed that i have become much, much more comfortable simply doing things without the distraction of music and by being away from the internet for so long as a result of doing these SCREENLESS DAYZ. it gave me confidence that actually i can go from task to task or drift from thing to thing in my day to day without having to have a little internet intermission of some kind when i am at home. it carries over to my general day to day which i think is important. generally, digital detoxes are not so successful because they do not tackle the problem at hand and the issue is still there when the detox ends. where this version of a detox happens once a week instead of once every few months, it has been more successful at making me not want to mindlessly go on the internet at all.
i also became very aware during this time that for me mindlessly scrolling is triggered by boredom or stress. for boredom, i think this comes from simply not giving my mind a moment to be bored since i was a teenager thanks to my smartphone, though i think this is starting to fade now. standing in a queue or waiting for a bus isnt unbearable anymore, i can simply stand there and wait (though i can still be impatient...lol). for stress, this can vary from something very small like needing to come up with a word while writing, to big triggers in my life tat sadly i cant always get away from. these triggers also cause other behaviours which i am working on separately, but they all come from this stressful feeling. its been a crucial thing to become aware of as when i do start mindlessly scrolling, i can say to myself: "am i scrolling because i am stressed? what is the stressor? can i solve it, or do i need to find a better way of calming down?". i find i am essentially my own therapist in these moments, like i am performing CBT on myself.
in regards to the SCREENLESS DAYZ, i think the main takeaway for me is that i need to employ this sort of SCREENLESS ATTITUDE and SCREENLESS HABITS in my day to day life and only use screens and the internet when it is truly necessary of me. funnily enough, this is exactly what cal newport asks one to do in his 30 day digital declutter, which i did just over a year ago now. rereading this, i was a bit sad to realise not much in terms of my issue with mindlessly scrolling on the computer had changed. but my mindset, and ability to do all the things i have mentioned previously, as well as other things i hope to write about soon such as my confidence in my self as a person, my ability to socialise, my consumption of media, etc etc have all changed so much for the better. SCREENLESS HABITS are also very important. i try to not use any screens while eating, for example. even if the telly is on, i like to look out the window instead or watch my elderly cat. this has of course become a lot easier due to the lack of a smartphone, but i wonder what kind of SCREENLESS HABITS i can implement while using a computer. i think i need to get into this habit of only using it when i need, or back into the habit of using my old friend forest...
tomorrow is yet another sunday, but it wont be SCREENLESS, as i have some particular uses for my SCREENS. the weather looks good, so i will go for a walk. i found a battery to put in my pokewalker, so i can use it to check my steps and see how my giratina feels. i want to make granola and pick the last of the raspberries and blackberries that are around. the last part of my declutter is to look at all of my old artwork in sketchbooks - i have been filming this process, and also i might need to move the footage onto my hard-drive, so i will be using SCREENS in this way. after planning my week, i want to check my messages as im meeting my friend M on monday, and then i will prepare my outfit and bag. other than this, theres not much use for my screens other than to maybe play a bit of pokemon white 2. on a day next week however, i might need to do commission work and check emails from my job and print postage labels and respond to my friends. though a day like this might be heavy on the screens, if i am intentional with what im doing, even if i schedule some sort of leisure time to check on my favourite neocities sites, at least i am using SCREENS LESS...
i promised a rewrite of digital wellbeing. it wrote it a year ago. i am struggling as so much of my outlook has changed since this time...