Have you ever wanted to throw your phone across the room, or maybe off a cliff? I do often, and that’s why I’ve started participating in screenless Sundays.
Beads of sweat trickled down my cheeks as I waited in line outside St. Peter’s Basilica in the summer heat, surrounded by hundreds, possibly thousands, of tourists with their heads in their phones. For a split second, I felt that I was missing out, until I looked around at what they were missing out on: the beautiful architecture, the history, the thought of how many pilgrims have stood in our places over the past millennium. While I was not phoneless by choice, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The night before, I faced every study abroad student’s biggest fear: My phone was stolen. Every picture, video, and memory from the past five months was gone in one swift pickpocket. Without a spare thousand euro to buy a new phone, I resorted to living old-school for the rest of my travels; I navigated the streets of Rome with a map and contacted people via email. There was no pressure to immediately respond to hundreds of notifications a day or stay up to date with all the latest news. As devastated as I was, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
While many of us don’t have the luxury of completely ditching our phones, there may be a way to set that weight down for a day each week: screenless Sundays.
When getting back on-grid with a new phone, that creeping feeling of notification anxiety came with it. I need a phone, but I also need breaks.
I found balance by limiting screen time as much as possible on the Sabbath. When I first started limiting my phone use, I faced an unexpected problem: What do I do with my free time? While I struggled at first, the newfound freedom allowed me to explore many creative outlets that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I tried my hand at crocheting, pottery, and sewing. While I was ultimately useless at all of these, I did have fun.
Now, my Sundays are focused on slow living. I may try a new recipe after Mass or write a long letter to a loved one. I may even finish the book I’ve been reading forever or start a new one. Whatever I’m doing, I do it with intentionality and with God in mind. The Sabbath is a day of rest — a day to spend time with family or self, gardening or cooking, crafting or creating. It is meant to be a life-giving day, not soul-sucking with hours of mindless scrolling. Screenless Sundays allow for this to happen, and I have God and a pickpocket to thank for that.
This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.