3 Things I Learned From a Week Without Screens

by Andrew Forrest

As part of?our church’s Lenten campaign, my family and I just spent the last week abstaining from screens for purposes of entertainment. (No tv, blogs, streaming video, etc. Unfortunately, I still had to use email for work, etc. Wouldn’t that be nice?….)

Here are 3 things I learned from the experience. The 1st is obvious and expected, the 2nd and 3rd surprised me:


  1. I’m a lot more productive when I’m not tied to my phone or computer.
  2. My stress level is lower when I’m not absorbing content from the internet, because
  3. Much internet content focuses on fomenting outrage. We are a people of grievance and offense. A friend of mine called me midweek and asked me about something that had occurred that had gotten the internet outraged and it was a relief to say that I knew nothing about it and didn’t care. I don’t need more petty outrage in my life. If you took away tweets and blog posts and articles that express offense or outrage–and took away pornography, sadly–how much of the internet would be left?

It’s startling how quickly something that’s clearly not a necessity–screens for entertainment–can shape our ways of living and interacting. What about you–how are screens shaping how you live, work, or parent?


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John Leek March 31, 2014 - 1:35 pm

Amen, Andrew.

I can totally relate to the productivity comment.

In addition, I spent over two weeks last January in a foreign country. I chose not to even bring a phone. I read at least 5 books(!!) and found I heard God in ways that were formative.

If I’d been able to keep updating facebook, I feel like I would have missed out on somethings.

Andrew Forrest March 31, 2014 - 2:17 pm

“If I?d been able to keep updating facebook, I feel like I would have missed out on somethings.”

You’d miss out by keeping up. I like it.

Eric March 31, 2014 - 5:11 pm

Unplugging is indeed a beautiful thing and it’s never been more difficult to do it. Forrester (my employer) released data recently that “85% of smart phone users check their phones an avg of 157 times per day. Also, among that group, the phone is never less than 10 feet away from them at all times”. Couple that with the Pew Research Center’s forecast that “by 2018 98% of adults in the US will have a smart phone” and… well… you get the point (yikes!). I’d be in favor of a National campaign to “unplug on Sundays” – something to remind people to experience LIFE vs life on the screen. Thanks for this, Andrew – it’s a great reminder for me personally to retreat, think, experience, pray, and unplug.

Andrew Forrest March 31, 2014 - 8:45 pm

Eric, that data is depressing. I’m convinced that the most serious problems we face will only be solved through sustained concentration and patient thought, the very qualities that the internet makes difficult to cultivate.

Kevin Beatley April 4, 2014 - 12:48 pm

My frustration with technology is the complete absence it creates among people that should interact together, independent of said technology, in order to prosper, grow, and become useful to each other. I sat in a waiting room the other day, packed with people, and just watched…I watched as each person feverishly tapped away at their phone or tablet, all completely oblivious to what was happening around them. Their kids ran around the room unsupervised, other than the occasional ?get back over here now;? people came and went; the receptionist had to repeatedly call out to people to solicit a response; and each one of us, who probably had the world to offer each other through interacting and sharing experiences, sat there and wasted away opportunities that we won?t get back. I imagine that in the world before smart phones and smart tablets, smart people interacted with each other and became smarter with greater frequency than is seen today.
I get frustrated when my wife and I, sitting in the same room with our two daughters running around, are so consumed with our phones that the neglect we show each other and the kids results in their degrading behavior, which in turn frustrates me more, which degrades behavior and hurts feelings, which gets me angry?..and so the downward spiral continues. I?ve learned to put the phone away while they are awake and it has tremendously improved our interaction together.
Now we have places to hide in plain sight, in the online world or elsewhere, where we are consumed with ourselves and our own personal worlds. It?s just so much easier than it used to be. I think we?ll see in the future the atrophy of interpersonal skills, where people would rather interact with their phone than with their neighbor. I know that I?m not better at ?skipping the screen? than anyone else, but I?d like to think that I am at least aware that I am doing it. That morning in the waiting room, I know that not everyone was.

Andrew Forrest April 4, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Kevin, unfortunately I think you are right on. And, I’m not any better than anyone else. What’s scary is how quickly all of us unthinkingly embrace these new technologies without ever seriously asking the question, “But is this really good for me? Will this help me ‘prosper, grow, and become useful’ [your phrase]?”

Aside from the relational destruction that staring constantly at a screen causes, I’m also worried about our country and our world. The biggest problems we face cannot be solved in 140 characters–they require sustained, thoughtful examination. Without cultivating those qualities, we’ll be in trouble.


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