Mini-Reviews: 24/6 and In the Woods

24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week by Tiffany Shlain

Are you addicted to your phone? Do you feel like your kids spend too much time on the computer or game console? Has your concentration, creativity, or sleep suffered compared to the days when you didn’t have a little computer in your pocket all the time? Do you stay awake past your bedtime watching endless episodes of your favorite show on Netflix? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this book might be for you.

“Internet pioneer” (it says so on the jacket) Tiffany Shlain has made a very persuasive case for turning off screens for 24 hours during the week. Her family (husband and two kids) are Jewish and they practice a weekly “Technology Shabbat,” screen-free from Friday evening to Saturday evening. They begin the evening inviting people over for dinner, playing actual record albums on a record player, lingering over food and conversation to kick off every weekend. It sounds idyllic. Saturday begins with sleeping in, reading, writing in journals, even normal weekend activities like soccer games. She makes a plan beforehand, with phone numbers or directions written down on paper. (She does advocate the use of a landline telephone for emergencies.) After all, before cell phones we just consulted maps and planned meetings or outings beforehand, didn’t we?

In addition to telling her story, why she came to try this tradition, she goes into the science of unplugging from screens – what it does for your brain, sleep, stress levels, etc.

Though researchers don’t always agree on why sleep is so important, everyone concurs that it is. Sleep does so much for our bodies and brains. It’s when the pit crew comes in and gets everything ready for the next day.

One of the things that happens is a literal brainwash. While we’re asleep, our brains actually shrink in a process called “synaptic homeostasis.” This process makes room for the brain’s level of cerebrospinal fluid to rise dramatically, washing out the damaging proteins that have built up over a day of thinking. It also allows synapses, which grow and widen while the brain is awake and busy but cannot grow indefinitely, to return to their normal size.

At the end of the book she provides a guide to trying your own Tech Shabbat, with suggestions for activities broken down by age group and even a recipe for challah bread that her family often makes during their time. You can do yours any day that works for your family. She also included friends sharing their experiences trying the Tech Shabbat, what surprised them or challenged them. It’s a very practical book, and it’s quite short, so you could read it in an afternoon.

My family hasn’t gone so far as to commit to a full 24 hours of no screens, but for the past two weeks we’ve had “Tech-Free Time” on Sundays. For five hours we don’t use any screens at all. It might not sound like much, but it’s been a game-changer for me. We play outside, play board games or do puzzles, read, work on projects around the house, and just actually talk with one another without distractions. I feel so much more present, and time actually feels like it’s slowing down. I do leave my phone on in case of emergencies, as we don’t have a landline. But I don’t respond to texts and keep it away where I can’t see it. I keep a notepad for writing down things I need to look up or do online later. I am thinking we should try expanding our time. As Shlain writes, “You are the parent. You can make anything happen. ” I highly recommend this book if you feel like you or your family old benefit from screen-free time.                        ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

In the Woods by Tana French

I’ve been meaning to read Tana French for years. I finally did and I’m so glad! I was worried that the plot of this would be too disturbing, with kids going missing and/or murdered, but I found that I could handle it. (Is the steady diet of mysteries/thrillers/police procedurals finally toughening up my soul?) What I encountered here was lush, thoughtful, atmospheric writing, and a page turning plot as well. It reminded me of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, that sort of autumnal, almost elegiac feeling. The main character, Dublin Detective Rob Ryan, is the survivor of a horrific childhood incident, most of which he doesn’t remember. When a child turns up dead in the woods where Ryan was found twenty years previously, now the site of an archaeological dig and impending highway, he’s desperate not only to find the killer but to see if there’s a connection to his childhood trauma.

I loved the writing, found the characters credible and occasionally irritating in the way real humans can be, and was fascinated by the dual mysteries at the book’s center. I will definitely read more by Tana French.     ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

17 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: 24/6 and In the Woods

  1. 24/6 sounds so amazing! I love anything that keeps me motivated about spending less time with my phone. Great job with your family’s screen free time. 5 hours is incredible!

    I’m so glad you loved In the Woods. The next book in the series, The Likeness, was my favorite! I think she set the bar high with that one because I’ve had a hard time with the rest of her books… I hope you have better luck with them!

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  2. 24/6 I belive I first saw on your blog and I made a mental note to look for it at the library. I appreciate your own experience with reducing tech time. Although it’s not a purposeful tech free time, the last few weekends on Sundays, we’ve had game night (with tea too) inviting friends over and it’s been so much fun, I might grab my phone for pictures but I’m not mindlessly surfing social media or fretting over blog post.

    So I’m going to make sure I read this one and maybe plan to shift my blog prep to some other evening or afternoon to free up more time on the weekend for screen free fun!

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    1. Your game night sounds wonderful! I’ve realized the extent to which I am addicted to my phone and other screens. It’s not pretty! But this is a start and makes me more aware of how much I pick up my phone on other days. I hope you enjoy the book and find something useful from it.

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  3. As the last living human being without a smartphone, I’m feeling kinda smug. Of course, I’d feel even more smug if I didn’t constantly have my laptop perched on my knee! But at least I can’t carry it when I’m out walking or shopping… 😉

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  4. We have a whole load of anxiety in my family, so it makes sense that few of us actually use social media, meaning we have fewer reasons to get online in general. I also don’t like to binge watch TV shows, as I can feel my brain actually get foggy, like when you wake up from a bad nap. This morning, when I was watching the morning news, I learned that the CEO of Instagram actually took away the like count. You can still like someone’s image, but it doesn’t show how many people total have liked the image. He said they are doing this to improve mental health and reduce low self-esteem as the result of competitive feelings. People like Cardi B said she’s going to boycott Instagram then. Okay, sure, Cardi B.

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    1. HA HA… I hadn’t heard that about Cardi B… that’s ridiculous! It’s kinda sad that we’ve all come to depend on “likes” so much but there we are. Good for you for not binge-watching or using social media. No doubt you’re healthier for that! I don’t tend to binge-watch because I just don’t have that kind of time. But I have been known to watch 3 episodes of The Office in a row. 🙂

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  5. I love love love the idea ot the technology shabbat, and I think you deserve a big pat on the book and more for instilling this in your family-you have inspired me! I’m going to try to do the same thing, but we will have to do it for a shorter time. Maybe we will start with two hours? LOL

    I’ve always heard great things about Tana French too, not suprising you liked her book! I think I’m getting a bit tougher too with my steady diet of mysteries 🙂

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  6. Yes! I’ve experimented with this and it’s wonderful. As far as the kids go, we tried to focus more on what we were doing rather than what we weren’t doing and made the days so full with other things that there often just wasn’t time to watch/play anything on a screen. Lots of cooking and baking, lots of board games and card games and walks and parks.

    But periodically we would also have mini binge-sessions with videogrames or shows, too. Hours at a time. And even with this excess, it was planned. Which meant it was occasional. (Often on a long weekend or winter holiday or birthday.) But now that they are older, they are, quite literally, left to their own devices, and making their own choices (quite unlike ours). And that’s how it goes. Which I’m okay with, really, because i do think it matters even more with still-forming brains (although I’m not saying it’s not an issue for adult brains too or that some adults’ brains aren’t still-forming LOL).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay! Board games and card games and walks are the best.

      I like your idea, to deliberately occasionally make room for the screentime binge. Ultimately I do want him to be an adult who is capable of putting down the phone or the laptop. Function in the “real world,” know the difference between the online world and the tactile world, that’s the goal. Thanks for your perspective as a parent of grown children!

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  7. Yay for weekly tech breaks! I sued to be really good about a near 24 hour break from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening but have gotten away from it lately. I need to get back to it since most of that time is fiddling around doing not much of anything worthwhile. And isn’t Tana French great? I loved In the Woods.

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