Screens and silence


I heard a news item on the CBC this morning that said people are spending 20% of their days on devices, now. The average Facebook user spends an hour a day scrolling the site. I was listening to the radio on my phone in the kitchen, and I looked up to see my 12-year-old holding her i-pod and her phone (wifi-only) while eating breakfast at the dining-room table. There are evenings when, after supper, chores and homework have been done, everyone gathers quietly in the living-room to stare into their phones and screens. It’s peaceful and it’s creepy. At least we’re in the same room? On Wednesday, I suggested we play a game instead. I don’t even like playing games, but it was the only family-oriented indoor activity I could think of. Everyone was so enthusiastic! We played Boggle till bedtime. It was fun. We were not silent and we were together. It reminded me of being on holiday.

Why don’t we do this more often?

Oh, right. Because we’re tired. This takes energy, when the other option is easy. So easy.

Last night, by the time we got home from soccer practice and picking up our eldest from work (dark, rainy, 8PM = not ideal biking weather), a child suggested playing a game, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have the energy to engage. I’d just been coaching 15 kids for an hour and you should have seen the state of kitchen. Instead, I tackled that. I could have asked the children to help, I suppose. But I didn’t have the energy even to ask for help (it does take energy, because I haven’t sufficiently ingrained in my children the necessity of helping around the house without complaint or argument). So no games. The kids didn’t think it would be fun without the parents, and the parents were toast. The living-room was once again a zone of screens and silence.

I was going to blog about something else in this quick post. I was going to blog about being mindful of persistent negative thoughts, which shape the sometimes negative narratives I tell myself, without even noticing, which affect my enjoyment of the world, generally. But this subject is not so different. What is shaping our life together as a family? What is shaping my children’s childhood experiences? It’s frightening and numbing to think that a powerful shaping factor could be these devices we willingly invite into our lives, and hold so close to us, all day long.

Recently, I asked my students to draw themselves in relation to their phones. The responses were a mixture of love/hate. We feel attached. We feel connected. We feel trapped. We feel helpless. Our phones are reprogramming our brains, the CBC report said, and I believe it. I’m writing a book? I should be writing a series of tweets or a video game or recording on a YouTube channel. It would be more practical.

What’s your relationship to your phone? Are you reading this on your phone?

xo, Carrie

PS Ditch your screen and come see me tomorrow at the Wild Writers Festival in Waterloo. If you’re a young writer between the ages of 13-17, there’s still space for you in my morning workshop. Or just come hang out with great Canadian writers and catch some free events.

Two little dogs
We make it magical all of a sudden


  1. Kerry

    I would love to attend, but tomorrow I am meeting with other writers, at the Woodstock Museum, for a few hours of NaNo writing fury. I am doing NaNoWriMo this month. I just with their website were a little more accessible for my screen software to read and interact with.

    I always read your blog posts on my laptop, for some reason. I rely on my phone for most everything else though. With Apple’s built-in voice program, I can text and do everything any sighted person does with their phone. Sometimes, I think this is a blessing and sometimes I think it is a curse. I sometimes leave it behind when I go for dinner or another family activity, for a break. It is reassuring to have it close most of the time.

    I’ve written an essay about how technology matters, how it influences, even on a trip to northern Canada and all that wildness of mountains and the natural world they love so much up there.

    Boggle sounded fun.

  2. Chris Cameron

    I am usually where my phone is not. I forget to take it with me, leave it in forgettable places, let the battery run down. My contacts get angry because they can’t find me. There is a wonderful, prescient short story by Ray Bradbury called The Murderer (1951) in which a man is arrested for drowning his mobile phone in a tub of French vanilla ice cream. He claims he just wants some peace and quiet.

  3. Maria Novajosky

    My son is in the middle of a group science project. I agreed to allow them to work on it at our house, but after their first meeting I realized how much time they WASTED checking on their cell phones (note: these are middle school age boys and my son does NOT have a cell phone). So now whenever they come over to work on the project, there is a pretty basket where everyone deposits their phones (I managed to pull this off by joking and making a goofy poem … didn’t want to seem the ogre).

    Screen time/cell phones … it’s all kind of sad. When our oldest son went on a school sponsored trip to Washington DC, instead of spending that travel time joking and talking and being loud, everyone was hooked up to their cell phone and it was completely silent on the bus. Again, I think it’s sad …


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