You can also use your list when you are out and about on your screen-free day if you really need to contact someone. How do you do that? You find a 21st-century portable telephone booth—i.e., borrow someone else’s cell phone. These living, breathing telephone booths (people) are everywhere.
You may also want a big pad of paper and black Sharpie pens. It’s much more satisfying to write anything down with a Sharpie. This black Sharpie is for all the things you’d typically pick up your cell phone to deal with: write a to-do list, ask so-and-so about this, schedule that, etc. Your thoughts will circle around your head like a bee looking for a flower to land on. Let them land on the paper, little blossoms of thought. There it is, in deep black letters, waiting for you on Sunday.
If you want to listen to music, get a record player (or go lo-fi with a boom box) or verbal speaker where you don’t have to look at a screen.
Now let’s talk cameras. Humans have been compelled to document our lives since the days of cave paintings. It’s only natural that you’ll want pictures from your screen-free days, especially since that’s usually when the best moments happen. Trust me: I am a documentary filmmaker. I get it. I love to record my favorite moments and relive them.
But I have to tell you, there is something delicious about not being able to record something and just having to experience with your non-monetized eyeballs, with your very being. When I’m trying to document something to share on social media during the week, I find I suddenly lose 20 minutes thinking about how to best capture the moment, what filter to use, how to caption it just right. Tech Shabbat lets you let go of all that.
At the same time, pictures are pictures, and if you just have to take one, here are some options. If you have an actual camera, great. Even if it’s digital, that’s fine, as long as it’s not a phone and thus a portal to a whole other world of distractions. But if you can’t resist and you must take that picture and the only device nearby is a smartphone, here’s the way to do it: Put the phone on airplane mode, take that photo, and then put that thing away. Don’t spend time having everyone look at the photo, editing the photo, and God forbid, sharing that photo. Just put it away.
Now, I know what you are thinking: I have to buy things and install a landline? But let me ask you: How much are your sanity and sense of balance worth? New iPhones cost a thousand dollars. The shopping list below will run under $100 if you get all of those things, but you certainly don’t have to. Some you probably have, some you may not want, and you can always make substitutions.
Either way, don’t let acquiring them stop you from trying Tech Shabbat. Go ahead and unplug, whether you’ve got the analog gear or not. You can always buy stuff later, when you know what you actually need.
But if you like to shop, here’s your list:
Installing landline: $15 to $20 a month
Radio or record player, simple model: $40
Sharpie pen: $2 (or splurge on a three-pack for $5)
Choose Your Day
We go screen-free from Friday night to Saturday night, because that works best for us, an updated version of the Jewish Shabbat. For others, it’s Sunday. Either way, I recommend doing it on the weekend if you can, because these are traditionally non-workdays, and it helps you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself when your screen-free time is on a rest day for people all over the world. But that’s not always possible, so pick the day that fits your schedule.