“Sorry honey, we will have to leave out the Netflix in the ‘Netflix and chill’ tonight.”
My partner Ryan and I stopped watching digital media together for a month. Well, technically I put myself on a ban due to a recent digital minimalism kick. But since we live together, he was involuntarily affected by my personal experiment. So for a whole month, our show-watching routine was put on hold. No Netflix, YouTube, TV, HBO, video games, social media…any digital mediums. As it turns out, these shows were eating up a lot of our evening.
Ryan and I had gotten into this habit of watching shows together almost daily. Just like many bad habits, it crept into our lifestyle slowly and silently. We would often start watching shows at dinner time. Plates full of food and minds tired from a full day’s work, zoning out to the lives of our favorite characters provided a sense of relief and relaxation. But sometimes one show turned into more and before we knew it, it would be 11:00pm. So like a zap of lightning our evening disappeared into the electronic rectangle on our wall. But the laughs, cuddles, and dramas provided enough reinforcement to keep us there.
This situation is obviously problematic. On the one hand, cuddling up on the couch and watching TV becomes like a sacred ritual. A connect point. A time to forget about stress and absorb another reality together. But for what? Did we need to watch shows together to feel connected? The time sucked away by the TV was time we could have spent reading, playing, and talking together. Plus, shows can be draining. I find many movies and TV exhausting as the problems in the character’s lives feel like they become my own. I needed a media break, so we made it happen.
The Rules of our Media Break Challenge
No watching any shows, TV, or movies together for a month. Pretty simple.
Ryan was not on a personal media ban. He always had the option to make his own decisions about watching digital media. As long as I wasn’t impacted of course (hard to do when you share a small apartment together).
Our Media Break Results
You might be expecting a story that ends in “we loved every second of it, accomplished so much in our extra free time, and fell even more deeply in love.” But this was not our story, at least not fully. There were things that were hard about this challenge and I want to share the honest feelings of both of us. Ryan’s and mine.
Thrilled by the freedoms of my newly integrated “digital minimalist” lifestyle, I felt like I was glowing during this media break challenge. In short: I loved it. There was so much to do! I felt more free and happy in my own life. And together, I loved spending more time actively connecting with him.
Eating dinner together was the biggest change. Putting on a show while we eat is very ingrained in our routine. So there was a period of hesitancy when him and I would sit down for a meal and then be like…okay, now what? But we filled it with other activities.
We talked. We played Scrabble. We read, both individually and together by taking turns reading aloud to each other. Our cuddling time didn’t even take a hit, just now it wasn’t in the presence of TV characters. But of course there were challenges.
Was Ryan on board all the time? No way. And he definitely pushed back on me sometimes. Looking at me with puppy dog eyes to pretty please watch HBO’s Succession with him. Sorry ryry, not today. I didn’t want to diverge from our plan. How good I felt became rewarding. Our conversations took the foreground as characters from The Office faded back. We got to reconnect. Our competitive sides came out during Scrabble (I won only once). And we had time to debate political/ethical issues (i.e when are you making “enough” personal changes for the sake of the environment?).
There were times when I wondered if I was I being too harsh. Was I sacrificing our sacred “TV time”? By the end, I didn’t think so. Overall, I feel like we had more time to connect. To share more of ourselves even with our busy schedules.
By way of introduction, Ryan is my partner of 7 years. What a champ for indulging my personal experiments and curiosities for that long. I’ll let him share his thoughts with you in the form of rapid-fire questions.
What was the hardest part of this challenge for you?
“Not being able to do something that I enjoy doing with my girlfriend. I felt a little conflicted in terms of what I could do in the evening, because on the one hand I wanted to hang out with Lindsay, but on the other, I wanted to watch a show that we enjoy together or play video games. In the beginning, it was more of a stressor, but towards the end I felt like I could let go and I didn’t have as much of a desire for media.”
What was one of the lessons you learned?
“That I could let go of media and still enjoy my evening. And that my mind would be more at ease before bed time. And it’s given me more appreciation for the shows I do like to watch. When I watch a show, then I’m all in and it’s awesome, versus mindlessly watching a show for three hours.”
How will this experience impact you going forward?
“Likely watch less media and be more open to other activities other than watching a show. Activities such as reading (alone and together), playing board games, and time for talking.”
How will this experience impact us going forward?
“I think it’s something that we could look back on positively knowing that we don’t need media to be the “end all be all” at the end of the night. And that we are comfortable not resorting to media even when it’s the easiest option.”
I’m definitely motivated to sustain this media break. I want to make de-connecting from media a part of our re-connecting time as a partnership. I’m looking forward to the increased time and energy to connect more with myself and loved ones.
How is media involved in relationships with your loved ones?
What would your media break look like?
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