A Mini Tech Detox Worth Testing.

By: Jen Shoop

I wrote some time ago about my erstwhile angst over my overuse of technology, which has deepened in parenthood, both in terms of how much I use my phone (ahem, what else can you do while supervising a toddler? Too hard to dial into a book, too dangerous to leave the room entirely, too unrealistic to use that time to constantly clean/organize the home) and in terms of how guilty I feel about it. At the dawn of the new year, I decided to let some of the air out of that balloon in two different ways. First, in an effort to be more present, I often (though not always) purposefully keep my phone on my desk, across the room from where I am most commonly sitting with mini. I keep it on my phone stand so I can easily see if there’s a call coming through (because I’ve also resolved, as a 34-year-old adult, to just pick up the damn phone when someone calls me) or a flurry of texts that might need my attention — but it’s far enough away that I can’t mindlessly reach for it in search of a quick scroll through Instagram. And on the other hand, I have resolved to not feel so darn guilty in the first place. I believe myself to be an attentive, involved mother, and have decided to cut myself some slack if I have been dancing to “baby shark” and reading the same four books over and over again for the better part of the morning and I need to take a break and catch up on social media, the news, email, etc. For one thing, it’s good for mini to play by herself. And for another, phones are a real part of this 21st century, and while I don’t want to be a poster-child for being glued to technology, I am also not going to parade around pretending as though phones don’t exist. So. That’s where we are. Imperfect, but trying.

I recently came across a new strategy for restricting technology use in a meaningful way: the one-screen-at-a-time rule. The idea is that we’re often using multiple screens at once, and how can we possibly be affording anything our full attention in that mode? I am especially guilty of turning on the TV and working on my computer or scrolling through my phone, only to find myself distracted and borderline befuddled at the end of the session. My mind’s been pickling in mixed, half-read messages: a glimpse of these shoes on this site, a snippet of this email on my phone, a line from that ad on the TV. And I rarely — if ever! — fully know what’s happened on the TV show I’ve been “watching.” What a waste! And what an unnecessarily noisy world to create for myself!

Mr. Magpie and I both decided to give this “one screen at a time” proposition a test and have been thrilled with the results. I find that watching TV together at night has become more deeply enjoyable. Is it horrible to admit that the first few days I attempted this “one screen only detox” (ha, that’s a stretch of the word!), I felt a vague sense of restlessness during the opening credits of The Office or the occasional 30 second stretches of ads interrupting our programming (I know, I know — we don’t pay for premium Hulu and therefore still have ads on certain shows)? I’d find myself itching to reach for my phone to fill that gap. Ugh! I can’t sit for fifteen seconds without stimulation?! Once I made it through that mild discomfort, I discovered something interesting: Mr. Magpie and I would often use those in-between moments to comment on something from our day, or muse over something in the show we’d just been watching. In fact, I find that we pause the TV a lot more often than we used to because we’re more dialed into what we’re watching and have more to share with one another — “wait, what did she mean?” and “Oh my God, that reminds me…” We’re more aware of watching alongside one another, more attuned to one another’s reactions. And it now feels like a shared activity rather than a time to glaze over. Even more surprisingly, when it’s time for bed, I feel rested. It feels as though I’ve just spent a luxurious hour doing something intentionally enjoyable and relaxing. I can’t say I felt the same when we were both simultaneously “watching a show” and occasionally reaching for our phones or putzing around on our computers; I’d go to bed in a half-alert daze. Now, at the end of a show, I’m unwound. There’s a satisfying feeling of “completion.”

So — test it! See how it goes! And let me know your reactions and results!

Post Scripts.

+A daily check-in that is also worth trying.

+Like the look of these inexpensive joggers.

+This may seem contradictory to the foregoing message, but I’m intrigued by this shower speaker. I think it’d be nice to tune into a podcast while showering in the evenings! (Who else is an evening showerer?)

+GUYS. I was just bragging about my good konmari and then the other day my beloved iron shimmied its way off the top of my drying machine while it was running and the water tank shattered. More importantly, I realized I’d crammed way too much up on top of my dryer. (I like this to keep my often-used laundering items tidy — I stow dryer sheets, starch, crease release, stain removal spray, etc in it). The area looked tidy and organized, but it was overstuffed. I went through all of the items up there and removed anything I don’t use weekly to stow elsewhere. I like that rule of thumb: organizing belongings in terms of use and relative ease-of-access. Anyway, I immediately re-ordered the iron. Because — as you now well know — I can’t live without ironed sheets. Can I say that this iron changed the game when it came to ironing?! If you’re serious about well-pressed clothing, invest in a good iron! You’ll be shocked at the difference!

+A cashmere sweatshirt for under $100!!! (I still wear this pretty much every other day. The side vents make it surprisingly accommodating of my bump!)


+In an effort at self-improvement: I am still looking for ways to remind myself to drink more water throughout the day. I think keeping this full and at my desk/in my stroller cup holder at all times might help.

+Into these sunglasses in that bone/pearl color!

+I saw a chic pea wearing these coated leggings with a cashmere duster and a pair of GGs and immediately wanted to replicate the look during this cold snap!

+Cute sneaks for a little one.

+A cute neutral look for micro.

+For those of us still hung up on the Staud netted bag situation — get the look for less.

+Valentine’s Day is around the corner! A couple of cute little gifts and outfits for the occasion.

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20 thoughts on “A Mini Tech Detox Worth Testing.

  1. This is an excellent idea. I’ve found myself being unable to pay attention to shows as I scroll through my phone, especially if I’m livetweeting. I’ll be putting the phone away post commercial break.

    I may extend this to podcasts while I’m at home too. Cheers!

  2. Also a nighttime showerer. Several years ago I purchased a cheap, water-proof blue tooth speaker to listen to podcasts while I showered. I figured if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be out a lot of money. And if I did like it, I’d upgrade when it died. And here we are years later and it’s still going strong!

  3. It occurred to me a few years ago that so many routine actions that I remember my parents engaging in throughout the day – checking the phone book, flipping through the mail, writing a check to pay a bill, skimming the newspaper – have migrated to the digital world. I don’t think anyone would have judged my mother looking up a phone number or reading a magazine while we played. The difference seems to be that those were very public actions (and even ones we could help with, as she might ask us to grab the phone book and find the number for her). Though essentially the same things are happening on a phone, the fact that it’s opaque seems to invite judgment that the phone user’s action isn’t necessary. I try to remember to reserve judgment – the person could be paying a bill, texting a spouse about dinner, taking a few minutes to read an article, or any other mundane activity that no one blinked an eye at in analog form.

    1. This is a great start to being mindful of intentional or unintentional judging. I am guilty of both and, in recent years, have been working on being more conscientious of that. You NEVER know what someone is doing or going through. Maybe they’re paying a bill, maybe they’re checking in on their animal via security camera, maybe they’re reading a book since this is the only time during the day they’ll be able to, maybe they’re mindlessly scrolling on Facebook. It doesn’t matter! We don’t live their life.

      This is concerning tech usage but honestly it pertains to all walks of life and is a good thing to work on in our (my) life.

      1. This comment and Sarah’s before it REALLY made me think this past weekend. You are both so right. How often do we silently roll our eyes at another parents on his/her phone at the playground or while their children are clambering for their attention? And it could be that they’re doing something important and time-sensitive. Resolving to give people more of a benefit of the doubt.


  4. That one-screen-at-a-time rule is genius and I should put that into practice more often. The other day I realized I was watching something, looking at my phone, AND eating at the same time. How much attention was I giving to any of those things!? (Though when I watch Narcos on Netflix it’s 90% in Spanish so I have to focus AND be looking at the screen to read the subtitles at all times, otherwise I have zero idea what’s going on!)

    1. Right?! It’s mind blowing! I have still found myself guilty of using two screens at once since applying this “rule” but I always then stop and ask myself whether I need to be using my phone / need to have the TV on. Sometimes I shrug it off but at least it’s seeded a useful kind of filter on a daily basis. xoxo

  5. Let me tell you how much I love that Everlane waffle sweater! I wear it at least 3 times a week with zero shame.

  6. Ok, this is brilliant. I can’t tell you the number of times a show has ended and I thought “wait, what just happened?!” because I sat there looking at my phone the entire time. I have a horrible habit of googling the s**t out of everything related to a show/movie I’m watching and then the craziest thing happens…I don’t actually watch the show/movie. This will be a hard habit to break, but I really like the intent.

    1. Guilty as well! I think a big part of it is just creating more awareness about what you’re doing/consuming at a given time. It’s made me a lot more conscious (and conscientious) about what I’m choosing to focus on and why. I even have found myself pausing the TV until I’m finished with using my phone/laptop and then resuming the show. It feels better to do things one at a time and to afford whatever I’m doing my full attention. xo

    1. I’m with you — it is really hard to get away from that. Even though I’m being gentler on myself when I do use the phone around mini, I still find it necessary to somehow “legitimize” its use by telling myself, “Well, we just read books and played for an hour!” It’s exhausting, all that accounting…xo

  7. I like this approach — being mindful of how/how much you’re using your phone, but not being guilty about using it. It’s true that the 2010s (almost 2020s … OMG) are vastly different from the era in which we grew up, and it’s hard to compare our technological experiences now to those of our parents when they were our age. I have found the “screen time” function on the iPhone to be so helpful, even though I don’t set limits — it just reminds me when I peek at it that oh, I’ve spent 40 minutes on Instagram today! Let me focus on something else.

    Also intrigued by your “one screen at a time” rule and think this would be good to implement. However, I am in the minority because I kind of hate TV (or, should I say, it’s rarely if ever my preferred method of relaxing in the evenings) but my better half loves to relax with a show after the work day. The shows he tends to watch are intricate and dramatic — The Wire is one of his favorites — so often, I’ll tune it out but sit on the other end of the sofa while I catch up on emails/news/blogs on my laptop, so I can still be near him. Haha! Not sure if that counts …

    Those Marant boots are amazing! The heel reminds me of a pair of shoes I had in the late 00s … in a good way!

    1. Yes, exactly — mindfulness over hard and fast rules. I think it’s more realistic. I like applying the filter — “why am I using these two screens at once right now? Do I need them?” Mostly I don’t but there are occasions where I feel it’s suitable. And then I can proceed with a kind of consent.


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