When I was a kid, my mom instituted a very unpopular policy amongst my siblings and I––the non-electronic Sunday. After watching my youngest brother stumble up from the basement red-eyed and anxious after hours of Call of Duty one too many times, she decided on a drastic ban of all technology––television, computers, Game Boys––on Sundays. We were instructed to read a book or play outside.
I loved playing outside. I loved reading books so much that I was expressly forbidden from reading books at the dinner table, when we had guests over, and even in the shower. I like to think that irritation with the ban had less to do with not being allowed to read in the shower, and was actually with its authoritarian undertones.
My mom, in her eagerness to prevent my brother from watching every single episode of Spongebob Squarepants ever created miraculously prophesied the hottest new trend of 2017––disconnecting from technology.
I don’t have an addictive personality. I’ve never been addicted to alcohol or drugs, and I’ve certainly never been addicted to exercise. But I am addicted to my iPhone. I can’t put it down. I catch myself checking it waiting for the subway, when I’m walking to the bathroom at work, when I’m with my family, when I’m playing music, and when I’m spending time with friends.
One weekend I was finding it difficult to disconnect and unwind after an intense week at work. I made the decision to turn off my phone for the entire weekend. Saturday morning, I powered it down and I didn’t worry about it much until Sunday night.
I relished Saturday morning. I read the paper. I walked down the street and looked into the cafes and barber shops. I sat in the park. I finished a book. I felt present and less distracted. Even better, I didn’t experience the anxiety I feel when I receive an overload of notifications. I didn’t check my work email.
Sunday, I got caught in the rain but I didn’t mind. I met up with a friend and drank tea in her apartment. We went out for wine at a lovely Italian restaurant and just spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying ourselves. It felt good to just be together, rather than wondering about what my other friends were doing or whether I was missing an important text. I felt rejuvenated.
What had bothered me so much about my mom’s ban on electronics now felt relaxing. I liked not being at the beck and call of notifications. My eyes felt better taking a break from staring at a screen. And I was fully present.
When I called my mom that night for our regular Sunday call, she wasn’t exactly thrilled that I hadn’t responded to her texts all weekend.
“Mom,” I said, “don’t you know it’s non-electronic Sunday?”