I love my phone, that cracked screen beckoning to me with its little blinking LED. I used to be on my phone so much around my friends that they decided it needed a name: Winston. Social media, news, and YouTube all had a big space in my day — big enough that I was definitely out of hand.
Then last November, amidst the stressful final weeks of classes, I went through some pretty bad depression. Aside from lot of chocolate, movies, and talking to a professional, I tried something else: turning Winston off at night.
Every night at 10 p.m., I would shut off all my technology for the night. I’d spend an hour reading, writing, knitting, colouring, or playing games, then I’d go to bed. Even if it was a weekend and I was out with friends, I’d still shut my phone off at the usual time. Whatever I did, it could not be on tech. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done; quitting smoking was easier for me.
Why screens? Why did I forcibly disconnect myself from the world? I was desperate to get out of the despondency I was feeling. SFU has too few counsellors to cover the student body effectively, so I was on a waiting list. In the meantime, I could only eat so much chocolate without wrecking my face, waist, and physical health, and even in my lethargic state, there are only so many movies I could’ve watched.
Not to mention that during almost all of those activities, I’d still be on my phone, suffering from a constant state of fear of missing out (FOMO). I was secluding myself on the Internet, even when faced with actual person-to-person contact. This promoted a loneliness which just propelled me further into my depression rather than pulling me out.
I didn’t know what to do. Then I saw this on YouTube.
I’m not saying that the screen is the exact cause of my sleeplessness, or my depression, or anything that specific. However, I do remember having no screens in my room and falling asleep to books as a kid, and I always slept better. Forcing myself to disconnect would also likely help the anxiety social media was causing me to form.
So what were the results of my self-imposed, night-time tech-less exile? It helped me sleep without a doubt. Whether it was due specifically to cutting out the screens, to laying off technology in general, to the fairly steady bed schedule I’d created, or — as is most likely — a combination of all of these things, I couldn’t say. What I can say is that, now that classes are back in session, I am back in my exile, though this time around it’s a little more relaxed; I can still listen to music or join friends at a movie if I want.
Even if the removal of the screens are simply a catalyst forcing me to read, to have time to do homework, and to converse with physical beings, the positive outcomes are undeniable. I am reading books and essays, my Gamemastering skillz hit the ‘z’ level, and my social media tendencies have actually garnered me a couple of followers, because I am going for quality, not quantity.
This route was hard, and I did it out of desperation, yet I’m really happy I did so. It’s totally worth the effort if you’re seeing similar trends (with or without the depression) in your own life. See what happens.