From the moment I get up, to the moment I go to sleep I consume everything from electricity to Internet and everything in between. My digital addiction has taken over my life and my home. Every room in my house has computer cabling and I even have WiFi in my garden! Ashamedly I have eight televisions and even my car can be controlled via an app on my phone.
I admit it, I am a digital junkie.
But as with any addiction there are consequences. Not only does my addiction continue to cost me a small fortune, but it has also impacted my family. Technology has stolen my relationship with them.
We’ve now got to a stage where we send WhatsApp messages to each other whilst we’re in the house and all our social arrangements are made via email and calendar appointments.
With technology so deeply sewn in to our daily lives we all know we have a problem and it’s typically the epicentre of all arguments.
Earlier this month I was invited to part in an experiment for an event called Shabbat UK. For those of you who have never heard of Shabbat UK, it is a yearly event which aims to encourage Shabbat observance. Now while I am Jewish, I definitely don’t consider myself as religious. I don’t observe the Sabbath and I visit synagogue at most twice a year so I guess I was the perfect candidate.
The challenge was to go without television, music, iPhones or iPads, no use of the internet connected and no driving. I knew this was a great challenge if not a little romantic and without consulting with the family I instantly agreed.
When I arrived home that day, I sat the family down and told them about the call. Surprisingly everyone was super excited with the exception of my eight-year-old who was mortified at the thought that she’d be without YouTube for a day! Despite my wife’s insistence I could never do it, we all agreed to commit to the cause.
At 6.13pm we all downed tools and my wife put the iPads and iPhones away in a cupboard high enough that the kids couldn’t reach them. We then sat down for Friday night dinner. Instantly calm was bestowed upon us and we started talking, laughing and really enjoying the experience of no tech and digital distractions. It didn’t take long for everyone to realise the journey ahead was going to be really fun.
After dinner, we retired to the lounge and I did something I haven’t done in a long time, I read. In fact I read the book by one of the people involved in this initiative called Noel Janis-Norton. Noel is an accomplished learning and behavioural specialist and author of a number of books including the one I read called ‘Calmer easier happier screen time’. The children also read and the house had a beautiful sound of silence and tranquillity to it, a sound I don’t ever recall hearing since the kids were born!
As I sat there in silence it dawned on me that the purpose of the Sabbath is not just about religion: its primary purpose is to unshackle us from the chains of our daily lives and encourage us to spend uninterrupted quality time on things that are important to us such as family.
All in all, my 25-hour detox was one of the most liberating and enlightening experiences I’ve ever had and I loved every minute of it. I loved spending quality time with my family, laughing, talking and relaxing. Finding out so many things that our daily lives don’t usually afford us to the time to find out. I took lots of things from this weekend but I must admit I was a bit shocked to find out that my wife no longer worked at Woolworths 😊
This Shabbat UK experience has not made me more religious, nor think about becoming so, but it has made me realise the important of Shabbat and how it is truly precious time for me and my family. I know this experience will change our attitudes to Shabbat forever.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experience. I would encourage everyone this Shabbat UK to try and turn off from the world for 25 hours. You’ll be surprised how easy it is, how little you miss and how much you gain. It is the most wonderful and gratifying experience and you’ll thank yourself for doing it but more so, your family will thank you even more!