I not only survived, I thrived during Screen-Free Week. I can tell by my dreams. The last few nights of my screen freedom yielded some of the most spectacular dreams I’ve had in a long time. Friday night I was literally flying around town with an air-powered jet pack, sharing my environmentally-friendly transportation invention with interested onlookers. Saturday night I giddily watched a performance by a couple who erupted from an organized sit-down dinner into a colorful, acrobatic dance. My mind at rest could suddenly imagine the bizarre and the beautiful, flight and frolic. I attribute my dream renaissance to several days of living uninterrupted by screen media’s barrage.
My waking experience of Screen-Free Week was not quite as surreal, though the first few days did induce a kind of vertigo.While using the internet for work, I found myself impulsively clicking over to Facebook and Twitter. I’d get to the log-in page and realize, startled, that I wasn’t supposed to be there. I’d navigate away, but before too long there I was again, staring at the request for a user name and password. Monday after work I had plans with family, so I wasn’t enticed by screens, but Tuesday night was a different story. I was really tired by 7PM and all I seemed to be able to think about was not being able to turn on the television and zone out. It reminded me of the time I tried to quit coffee and, as my head pounded, all I could imagine was how a cup of joe would be a quick cure and how delicious it would taste. Except Tuesday night the thought that consumed me was how easily I could click the TV on and how mindlessly I could watch it. Thankfully, this was the low point of my week.
The rest of my days without screens were wonderful. I had dinner with my college roommate, filled an entire box of books to donate, and spent a great weekend with my family in New Hampshire. My first night in the mountains my aunt, grandmother and I chatted while my 11-year-old cousin Nate and I played a game of “spot the differences between the photos” we found in some of my nana’s old magazines. Saturday my family ventured to find a country pancake house (well, more like barn) of which we’d heard rumors. The local maple syrup was worth the windy ride. Later that day, my aunt Melissa and I explored my family’s old camp in the woods and made preliminary plans to give it new life this summer. Luckily I’m not a hockey fan, or else sitting next to the TV reading while my family watched the Bruins game might have been tough, but all in all I was happily surprised by the ease of ditching screens for a week.
Today is my third day back on screens. I haven’t remembered a single dream since I plugged back in. But that may be a short-term effect of my return to screen-mediated life, because my relationship to screens has changed. I’ve not updated my personal Facebook status, nor have I tweeted. The TV has stayed off. These activities just don’t feel as essential as they used to. I’m looking forward to all of the time I’ll spend away from screens this year imagining and revitalizing our little cottage in the woods—which will, of course, be screen-free.