My Experiment: Digital Sabbath

For 24 hours, from Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon, I didn’t use my phone, tablet, or computer. I turned off all of those devices. This digital sabbath was part of my phone detox plan as outlined in the book How to Break-up With Your Phone. My wife participated with me as well.

How I spent the time:

Played a board game three times with my wife.

Finished reading the current issue of The New York Review of Books.

Read from Ann Beattie’s newest short-story collection, The Accomplished Guest.

Ran five miles early Saturday, no sounds but my footfalls, my breathing, the frogs, the crickets, the various birds, the occasional cars.

Read over half of the most recent issue of Dappled Things, a quarterly literary magazine.

Spent most of Saturday in Austin with my family where we visited a children’s museum, ate at a French bakery/cafe, and then explored IKEA. (And my wife and l left our phones at home.)


My run might have been the most unexpectedly joyful experience of the sabbath. Years ago, before my I owned an iPod, I ran outside without any music. And I ran long distances that way. So early on Saturday morning I rediscovered the delight of moving my body along the running route free of earphones.

While at the children’s museum for two hours with my family, I was forced to pay attention more to my surroundings, to converse more with my wife, and to interact more with my kids. Eating at a French cafe/bakery, we savored our meal, chatted about our lives.

I’ll admit there were times when I wished (at least initially) I had my phone: getting weary at the children’s museum, while standing in the checkout line at IKEA for a half hour, sitting in crawling traffic.

Nevertheless, I realized that I could choose to be present and observe all that was going on around me, and to be frank, anywhere in Austin on a Saturday is going to be busy with lots of human activity.

I thought of a statement from James Baldwin (and something I regularly share with my creative writing students) that basically the writer’s job is to describe things that other people are too busy to notice.

Going Forward

Overall, I loved being free of my phone. I felt a lot younger, as in when I was newly married, before our old prepaid phone sat in a kitchen drawer.

I plan to take more of these extended breaks with my “smart” technology. I don’t want my eyes regularly staring at glowing screens. I want to live more in the analogue world.


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