Sunday, July 4, 2010

Screen free saturdays

Now, I'm certain that the astute among you a have noticed that already, just three days into July, and I've already managed to break my commitment to post something here every day. This is because I forgot to factor in screen free Saturdays. This is something that Min and I have been doing (well, attempting - with various degrees of success), for the last month or so. Simply put, we try, on Saturdays, not to use any screens. That means no computers, no iPhones, no television, and this week - to my horror - no brand new iPad. (Alright, I'll admit right now that I did cheat a couple of times yesterday, and steal a few quick moments with my new toy while Toby was asleep, but for the most part I did okay)

We got the idea from hearing Susan Maushart talking about her new book at the Sydney writers festival in May. She and her family went "off the grid" for six months, and this got us talking about the degree to which various forms of screen time have imposed themselves, by degrees, upon our day to day lives. Those of you who follow this blog will know that, for some members of this family, at least, our relationship with screens - of various types - is really something close to an obsession. Especially since someone introduced me to the products of the evil empire that is Apple Corporation. And so I'll admit that I came to the notion of screen free Saturdays with just a little trepidation.

But you know something? I really like them. Saturdays have become my excuse not to check my email, and in doing so to completely get all work-related matters out of my head for a while. They've re acquainted me with the pleasures of working in the garden and around the house. Of taking the dog out for exercise. Of board games. Of reading for pleasure, rather than work. It means that we do stuff together as a family. Not that we didn't before, you understand, but it just takes one major distraction and timesink out of our days.

Screen Free Saturdays have also driven home to me the degree to which this new, ultra connected age in which we find ourselves (and I know that if my grandkids ever read that last sentence, they're going to piss themselves laughing) imposes an odd, subconscious, sense of obligation upon us, just as much as it connects us. The first time we did screen free saturday, I felt guilty for not checking my email at least a couple of times. What if one of my students had a question about something? What if somebody had emailled me with an urgent query about an upcoming event?

But, of course, when I did get to my email on Sunday morning, neither event had occured. And if they had, it wouldn't have mattered. It was all in my head, and that's - I think - the most useful aspect of screen free Saturdays for me; they remind me that I don't need to be connected all the time. At least, not to the rest of the world. And in not being connected to the rest of the world, I get time to work on my connections with my nearest and dearest, which is far more important. No offence intended.

So while I'll have to hold my hand up and plead guilty-as-charged over my lapse yesterday, I won't be apologising for it. Yesterday we took Toby and Chelsea to the local dog park for a run around. We went to the farmer's markets and did our shopping for the week. We did some cooking. We did a little work around the house and in the garden. All in all, it was a good, screen free day.

Of course, it has to be Saturdays, because tonight is "Masterchef" night.

And, after all, you have to have priorities ;)

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