I have a dream of three days without beeps and flashes. Three days without scrolling. Three days without the urge to pick up a glowing rectangle.
Just as a normal bank holiday gives us time off from work, I propose a screen bank holiday to give us time off from our devices.
Reducing screen time is proven to benefit our sleep, our posture and our attention spans. There are also beneficial effects for our family and social lives, allowing us to focus more on the people around us.
What’s this got to do with sustainability?
Anything that improves our health and wellbeing can be sustainable; remember that sustainability is not just about the environment, but the social and economic aspects. If we could all spend less time on our devices then we could all be healthier.
Then there are the secondary benefits. We can spend more time in, and engaging with, the environment. We can focus on noticing things and stop our interactions with the world being surface-level only. We can be of the world, instead of just passing through it.
What does it entail?
Just as a public holiday gives us an extra day off work, a screen bank holiday gives us a break from our phones and other devices. The bank holiday weekend is a good time to anchor such an experiment: a time, not too long, when not too many people are trying to get in touch with us.
And who knows? If the screen holiday weekend works out for us, maybe we’ll be inspired to have the odd screen holiday week?
How do we do it?
I don’t advocate a complete removal of our phones, but an end to non-essential use. I plan to keep my phone on me in case I need to make an emergency call or take a photo.
What I suggest is an end to the casual use: the scroll, the pick-up during quiet moments. Some suggestions on how to make this work:
- Carry other distractions. If we’re in the habit of picking up our phones as a distraction in quiet moments, we should carry something else that can serve that purpose, say a book or a magazine, a sketchbook or a Rubik’s Cube. Otherwise, make habits of noticing our surroundings, stretching, or grabbing a moment of reflection.
- Stop notifications. The extreme example is to change all our notification settings, particularly for the evilest apps, but I find the easiest thing is to switch on do not disturb. For peace of mind, we can change our settings to make exceptions for family or close friends.
- Tell people. Tell people what we’re doing. Not in a “big announcement to all our social media feeds” way, but letting those who will care that we’ll be quiet for a bit.
Finally, I suggest we start our screen holiday on Friday night, as soon as we finish work. That’s when most of us consider the bank holiday started, right? No putting it off until Saturday morning, because there’s always the risk that we’ll put it off further still.
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