Screen-free evenings

For my lenten discipline this year, I have decided to forgo using computers (including “mobile devices”) anytime after supper.  For the past month or so, I have been trying to be “offline” for two hours before bed, in the hopes that I might sleep better if I haven’t been staring at a brightly lit screen just before trying to convince my body that, really, it’s night-time, and I should sleep.  The “after supper” rule just means a little more time without the computer.

This year, I have been trying to be more mindful of how and when I am using my computer, and especially the addictive behaviours I sometimes exhibit around social media.  I have been noticing recently that, while I seem to be capable of using my computer productively during the day (and I need to, since I’m working on starting a freelance graphic design business), my evenings seem to be spent mostly in a sort of mindless state of refreshing pages that have no new content — really, if Facebook has no new content, closing the window and then immediately opening a new window and going to Facebook will not lead to new and interesting content appearing.  This sort of behaviour does not in any way enrich my life; I could better spend that time journalling, baking, planning menus, spending time with my husband and our housemates, cleaning, mending, calling family and friends to catch up…

I’ve had a while now to adjust to screen-free evenings, and it certainly hasn’t always been easy.  There have been plenty of evenings when I have messed up, and realized at bedtime that I’ve been on my computer all evening.  Even if I’m not on my computer, I often find myself using my husband’s computer by proxy —”hey, can you look this up for me?”.  I’m not allowing myself to do that during Lent, even though it isn’t mindless clicking — I want to be more fully away from my computer and that connection to the outside world.

Another challenge with these screen-free evenings is that I have had to re-learn how to amuse myself without a computer.  Over the past few years of being a student and starting my own business, I seem to have forgotten how offline recreation works, at least when it comes in small blocks and doesn’t involve someone else removing me to a different location for a vacation.  When I brain-stormed things to do in my evenings, however, I came up with a fairly lengthy list.

This discipline does require me to plan my time differently; for instance, without this discipline, I would have been writing this post the night before it’s due; instead, it’s currently shortly before lunch-time.  This means that I mostly can’t work in the evenings, either.  Sure, there are a few things I can do, but the vast majority of my work is on the computer, and I can’t do that.  I find that I’m writing more notes to myself in the evening — “email so-and-so” or “check whether this code works”.  But the thing is, I probably wouldn’t have actually done those things in the evenings before, because I would have been mindlessly clicking and wouldn’t have thought of them.

Despite the difficulties of disconnecting in a constantly-connected world, I’m enjoying having my evenings back.  I have been journalling far more in the past month or so than I had since I got married; I spend more time with my husband; I have an analog date book, and I’m more on-top of my schedule.  Forcing myself to actually take some time off each day makes me more productive when I am on my computer — I know that time is limited, and I need to get things done while I’m allowed to.

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