UNPLUG – How to Limit Screen Time to Build Meaningful Relationships

What is happiness? It is about appreciating all that’s around us, it’s about being grateful for all the blessings and building meaningful relationships. If connecting with people and empathizing with those around us make us humans, then being in front of the screen is doing the exact opposite. If family time is meant to reconnect us all and share fears, joy and sorrows with each other, we are too distracted by screens to even notice these emotions. Instead of appreciating food in front of us or nature around us, we are too busy taking selfies and updating instagrams.  Time and time again, I see a family at restaurants sitting together, all busy with their own cellphones and gadgets. We have somehow stopped talking, stopped getting to know each other and stopped empathizing. Below is my attempt to bring back joy, meaningful connection and happiness back by limiting our family screen time

Have screen free time zones

“And We made your sleep a rest for you.” [Surah al-Naba’: 9]
Quran talks a lot about night being a blessing and a source of comfort for us. Night is made for sleep and to unplug. Yet, so many of us choose to browse or work on things that are ‘important’ during nighttime. No wonder sleep disorders are so widespread these days.

Instead of spending the night browsing, make an attempt to turn off all screens an hour before your bedtime. Stop that urge to ‘check one last thing’ before sleeping. If it helps, keep a notebook by your side to scribble down all the things that come to your mind that you ‘need to look up’. Tell yourself it can wait. Use that time to wrestle with your toddler or read a good book.

Have pockets of screen time
Fix pockets of time throughout the day for checking mail, browsing, blogging etc. whenever you feel the urge to check something out during your ‘screen- free’ time, tell yourself you have a pocket of screen time coming up. I usually keep these screen times every 3 – 4 hours. If my ‘screen – free’ zone starts 08:00 am, noon is my screen time. I resort to my scribbles to determine what I had to look up. No matter how strong the urge to look up something, tell yourself it can wait.

Know what you’re looking for

Mindless browsing and face booking emerges from not having a clue why you turned on your screen or cellphone in the first place. Every time you turn on your cellphone or laptop, ask yourself ‘what do I need to look up?’ Have your purpose determined before browsing and stick to your goals. Avoid having multiple tabs opened. Time and time again, skim through all your tabs and ask yourself if you ‘need’ all of them. Close any tabs not needed right away

Leave the phone behind
Leave the phone behind when you go out for nature walks or for family dinner. Trust me, all those watsapp messages and emails can wait. You don’t have to reply back to all the messages within 30 sec of seeing them. Keep reminding yourself of purpose behind a family dinner or nature walk. Try reconnecting with the people around you or just appreciate all that’s around you: the food, the atmosphere and your family.

De clutter your life
Yes, this includes your mobile devices and laptops. Block sometime off to go through all your files and emails and delete anything that is unnecessary and is a source of distraction. Unsubscribe from all the mailing lists you don’t care about, delete all the apps you no more use but they keep beeping  and cause distractions.

Be mindful of all these distractions in life and remind yourself they are taking away time you can spend re connecting with your spouse, checking in with your mom or siblings or getting to know your children. Humans are social and having 1000 + facebook friends doesn't make you social. Getting to know the people around you, appreciating them for who they are and be there for them when they need you is what makes us humans.