Last week I set you a challenge. Could you live without your phone for the weekend? 48 little hours without your device. 48 hours of being disconnected from the world, and connected to yourself and family. Disconnect to reconnect, that was the challenge. When your computer experiences a problem what do you do? Plug out, wait and turn back on again.
The challenge was asking you to do the same thing, plug out for 48 hours and see how you feel. I did this challenge myself two weeks ago and I found it hard, but not impossible. My wife set me the challenge, and I accepted. I must say, I got onboard with her previous challenge five years ago, ‘Let’s go for a third child’, with more enthusiasm than this one, and it resulted in Sophie Hogan.
Maybe 48 hours without a device, might result in the same thing! Like the surge in babies during the lockdown. Although, research also shows there was a surge in divorce, too. Whichever the outcome, could you do it? Well, the feedback I received for many of you who accepted the challenge was a resounding, ‘no’.
Many of you who tried said it was too long to live without your phone and it caused anxiety. Perhaps the very reason why the challenge was set in the first place. Sinead (32) from Ballincollig said, "It’s too much not to have your phone for two days. I felt I was really missing out on things, I was anxious without it. I did it for Saturday, I felt uncomfortable going to sleep wondering what had happened that day for my friends. I woke up Sunday morning at 7am and turned it on, it was such a relief but I had missed nothing and then felt guilty I couldn’t do the challenge."
Cathal (58) from Dublin said, "I never thought I needed my phone. My kids joke about how I never know where my phone is. I don’t feel like I check it that often but I found your challenge difficult. I turned it off Friday evening not thinking I would give it a second thought over the weekend, as I go for long cycles and walks but I must say by Saturday afternoon I felt uneasy. I convinced myself I needed to turn it on and so miserably failed the challenge.
Sinead (19) from Waterside said, "I couldn’t do it, no way."
Many others said the same thing. In fact, only one person said that they accomplished the challenge, that was Susan (50) from Mallow. "It was challenging, but I did it. When I was out for a walk I wanted to take pictures of flowers I saw and felt cheated. I was happy it was over and felt excited turning my phone on which annoyed me. I don’t want to feel excited turning my phone on, after a couple of hours I didn’t really think about it too much but I know I need to do more of this, thanks for the challenge. We all need to do more of it."
Some of you asked me to make the challenge easier, so I’ll simplify. This week the challenge is for the entire family. During the weekdays, no technology after 7pm. Everyone in the family must hand up their device at 7pm. When you are bringing a change like this into the family it’s important that you make it fun. Set something up in its place. Get the kids to choose an activity that you can do or play and connect as a family.
You must get ‘buy in’ from the entire family. You can’t expect the kids to do this if you are not doing it yourself. Remember, you’ll say things like, "I must check my emails." But that’s just your habit speaking. Put a boundary around your device use for this week. If you have to, tell your colleagues that you will not be checking emails after 7pm. Which, let’s be honest, you shouldn’t be doing anyway. We are all too connected to our devices, we need to disconnect to reconnect.
We are giving too much of our agency away to these devices and we need to be intentional about how we take back our lives from them. Between the hours of 7pm – 9pm this week, do something as a family. A family walk, board games, looking through family albums together, telling stories, whatever it is - do it as a family. I know the kids will moan a little at the start. But they might just surprise you. And you never know, you might like it too. And it might become a part of the family evening routine! well, let’s see. Challenge set.