WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DIGITAL WRITER TRIES A DIGITAL DETOX? MY WEEK OF ‘INTENTIONAL’ SMARTPHONE USE

The irony was rich when a CBC Saskatchewan online journalist curbed her screen time — but so was the living

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David and Tricia Gerhard, along with their kids Sophia and Jacob, have spent the month of November trying to reduce their screen usage. Here, they play a game called Killer Bunnies together as an alternative to watching 'mindless' TV, as David explains. (Submitted by David Gerhard)

If you’ve clicked on this story and read even just the first line, I’ve already succeeded in one goal.

I’m a writer working in a digital world, so getting you to read stories online is part of my job. But I know attention wanes and within seconds, some of you will jump to something shinier, newer, prettier.

You and I, we share this in common — we live in this digital space together. We read, we scroll, we consume. We carry the world in our back pocket, and there’s always something to demand our attention.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed, and I need a break.

Avoiding the cat-video rabbit hole

I decide to take a page out of the book of University of Regina professor David Gerhard and his family. They’d been talking about tackling about what some call a “no-screen November.”

“We do spend a lot of time on our phones. We’d all be sitting around at dinner and poking around our screens,” he tells me.

Over the course of two weeks, I know for sure [my family has] had conversations that we wouldn’t have if we were staring at a phone, instead of staring at each other.– David Gerhard

Gerhard pointed out it’s a tough task to divorce ourselves completely from smartphones, when we use them for just about everything.

The challenge is to be intentional, to use the phone for what we need and then put it away rather than falling into a rabbit hole of funny cat videos.

“Over the course of two weeks, I know for sure [my family has] had conversations that we wouldn’t have if we were staring at a phone, instead of staring at each other,” Gerhard told me.

What might my family learn from doing the same, I wondered. I joke that my husband’s phone is a mistress that’s impossible to compete with: she’s sleek, infinitely knowledgeable and always gives him the latest sports scores and analysis. I often want to break her in half.

The first thing you might do in the morning and the last thing you may do at night is to check your phone.(Shutterstock)

‘The algorithm is us’

My family grumbled a bit about it at first, but they agreed to go along with the experiment — one week of “intentional” smartphone use, meaning for the entire week, we’d only turn to our phones when absolutely necessary. No cat videos and Candy Crush for us.

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