Staring at the TV with a dull headache after yawning through an episode of “The Office,” I decided to go to bed. I walked upstairs to my bedroom and while brushing my teeth, I glanced out my window and had a realization: I hadn’t been outside that entire day. I went to four hours of online class, did an hour of homework on my computer and watched an hour of TV after eating dinner. The only breaks I’d taken from screens were for meals and my 15 minutes of piano practice. I knew without a doubt why my head hurt; I had spent almost the entire day in my room looking at either my phone or my computer.
It was against this backdrop that my mom told my siblings and I that our next Saturday would be screenless. She said we would spend the day hanging out with family, playing board games and reading books.
At first, I felt confused and skeptical. Saturdays typically served as my time to complete homework and spend time with friends outside. If I couldn’t use my computer or phone, I wouldn’t be able to do either activity.
But my parents insisted that we give “Screenless Saturday” a try. As they constantly reminded me, when they were in high school, they had been able to complete their homework and spent time without friends, without screens.
That Friday night, I printed out my math homework, texted a few friends “goodbye” and put my devices upstairs, locked away until Sunday morning.
On the device-free start to the weekend, I played board games, practiced piano and took multiple neighborhood walks. I spent the majority of my time hanging out with my family. If I got bored or had nothing to do, I’d read the newspaper — yes, the printed newspaper.
Rather than hiding in my room until it was time for dinner, I helped my dad prepare a lemon risotto and fried pork cutlet dinner while we talked about the next day’s football matchups and a debate tournament that I had coming up.
The absence of screens made me realize how much they dominated my life. Before we started doing Saturdays with no tech, every break I had in my day was spent checking my texts or pulling up a quick YouTube video. But now, without these distractions, I found other, simpler ways to entertain myself, like playing with my siblings outside or sitting on my porch reading a book.
Without screens always being at my disposal, it became easier to relax and enjoy the little things in life. There was no need to be constantly worrying about whether I’d missed a notification. I realized that nothing on my phone could be as essential or important as my family.
When I woke up Sunday morning and checked my phone for the first time, I realized how little I had actually missed. A couple friends had asked me questions about the French homework, other friends had sent me funny memes, and I, unfortunately, had missed out on some baby pictures of my cousins in our family group chat. But I realized that there was no need for me to stay glued to my phone 24/7. What was more crucial was the fact that I spent a whole day paying undivided attention to my family.
My parents have declared a few more tech-free Saturdays, and each time they have grown easier and more enjoyable. I still check my texts frequently and watch YouTube, but going cold turkey for a day serves as a reminder that life happens outside of our electronic devices.