It’s January 31st. This is the last night of our going dark challenge. Neither kid is with us tonight to offer some illuminating thought about the process. I guess it’ll just be up to Gaby and me to tell you about our experience.
The first two weeks were hard. I don’t think we even cheated in that time. We got some cards and letters. We played some board games. It was hard adjusting to the kids’ constant conversation about things we don’t always care about. Gaby worked her ass off making bread. We even cleaned a lot more than usual. We sat around the kitchen table together, wondering what to do with our time. We lamented about how we missed the screens.
After the 15th, we got a little looser with our rules. Gaby checked and used her phone all day since it was her birthday. I did the same for mine on the 18th.
I admit that I streamed some spotify once or twice to my sweet bluetooth speaker. I used my phone several time to set my fitbit alarm so as not to wake up the whole house (cats included) super early in the morning. Some of those times, I accidentally hit the facebook app button.
The kids, I know without asking, have enjoyed having a home phone. Cyrus loves to answer it and hang up immediately if you’re not someone living in this house, Erika’s dad, or my parents. But, honestly, when he talks to Mom and Dad he is usually very short with his conversation. “HellOOOOOO. Hi. Do you love the Cardinals? By the way, bye!”
I’m pretty sure Erika cheated last weekend when she had a friend over; they slept in the basement and I found the t.v (and every single fucking light) on the next morning. We never confronted her.
Gaby is scrolling through her phone right now. So. I guess we’re really done.
I’ve missed Netflix. A lot. And turning on the t.v. on Sundays just to see what noise is on. We have only local channels, but sometimes I enjoy a random college basketball game. I don’t care about football, but the noise sounds like home. Cyrus, of course, loves to watch a full game.
Cyrus has missed video games, but has been amazing at self monitoring. If he sees a phone lying around, he tattles, “Ummmmm, you said no electronics…” This morning he asked if the stove is an electronic.
The thing I’ve enjoyed most is not having a t.v. or video game on right after school, or coming home from work. We’ve eaten dinners together. At the beginning, we played games and wrote letters after dinner. Then, well, we just started going to bed earlier. Like old time farmers. It’s dark, so there’s nothing to do but sleep.
Erika has been reading a little bit more and going to sleep around 8:30 because that’s when Gaby and I go to sleep now (since I get up at 4:30 most of the week). With it still being pretty dark here in the evenings, Cyrus goes to sleep well before 8. It’s 7:00 p.m. right now, and I’m ready to call it a day.
I’ve been reading, too. I read one whole book, 3/4 of another, and maybe 1/4 of a new one. That’s a whole lot for me. I haven’t read this much since grad school. And, as some of you have asked: I finished Half Broke Horses, by Jeanette Walls, am 3/4 of the way through Hungry for the World by Kim Barnes, and have started Hunger by Roxane Gay. The first book was recommended and given to me by a friend. That was about 10 years ago. I’ve owned Kim Barnes’ book for more than 10 years, and she even signed it at a reading in Fairbanks. Roxane’s book is new, so it’s nice to read something that hasn’t been guilt-tripping me from my bookshelf.
Gaby says she’s ready to go back but doesn’t want to lose her pen pals. She wants to keep up the good work making our own white bread, too. She loves the house phone because she loves to hear the kids answer and wonder who it is. She wants to implement a schedule for having our phones turned on/off. I like the idea of the times when we can or cannot be on our phones/screens. I wouldn’t even mind if we went weekdays without screens and just allowed them on the weekends.
As for me, I’ve enjoyed blogging about the experience, but it’s taken me away from responding to some letters. I’m sorry. I will. I promise.
So, friends. I recommend you try it. As with forming any new, healthy habit, it sucks. It’s hard. It’s a lot of work. It feels like a huge sacrifice. But you’ll get used to it. You’ll sink into new rhythms. You’ll cheat a little to find out what’s best for you.
Slowing down so drastically on my social media consumption has been phenomenal; I have less anxiety. I reach for my phone less often. I got into only one, tiny political facebook fight. (when I did, I spent too much time thinking about what to respond) I don’t want that kind of bullshit to take up space in my head anymore. I’m busy enough worrying about feeding Cyrus enough food, about helping Erika plan her high school classes, about cleaning up after the cats, about being a good and present partner to Gaby.
The times I’ve scrolled through facebook I’ve thought, “I can live without knowing all of this.” The news, well, I get that from the radio without all of the bullshit comments from stupid people. Knowing what you had for dinner and where you had it, I mean, that’s cool, but I don’t love you or hate you any more for it. Maybe I’ve missed out on some events, but I don’t know, so I didn’t really miss them.
And, who knew, the fewer things you say on social media, the smaller and smaller you become. No one comments. No one “likes” your post. No one bothers you.
I bet you were so busy seeing everything else, you didn’t even miss us.
Maybe that’s why we social media at all: so we’re not forgotten.