Screen Time Rules

My Menagerie Anxiously Awaits the Return of the WiFi So They Can Watch The Muppets)

I walk back into the office in my flat. I click the WiFi settings. I refresh. The horrendous yellow traffic cone is still there’ its message conveys no WiFi yet dude.

As I have two computers now, I go to the computer in the living room. It’s older and makes the same sounds my neighbor’s dog used to make when he’d gone blind and start an argument with the wall. Still, it’s hanging in there by a string and a prayer and we use it as our television for Netflix and streamed shows.

I click WiFi. Refresh. Yellow cone. No! It’s official, I’m offline.

As someone who groups words into stories, I am often looking for a little more time. I get up at 5 a.m. during the semester in order to get my writing in first thing in the morning. If given the opportunity, I would get up at 7:30, but I have no control over my schedule and I have to deal with what I’m given.

If a school task or a proofreading job takes up time that should be spent on fiction or blog, I can get quite testy. I feel uneven if I can’t get the words in every day. I snap at the cat. It’s a bad scene.

So on this lovely Saturday afternoon in which I am home alone, have exactly no obligations in the immediate future should be a godsend. I could hole up in my office and work for two hours, go out for a beer in the evening with the creative juices brewing in my cortexes.

But I’m not. I’m walking back and forth between my two computers staring at the same eventuality. No WiFi.

This doesn’t make any sense to me on any level. I’ve never considered myself a person who needs to be online all the time. I never thought I suffered from FOBO (fear of being offline). I thought I respected the moments that should be away from the screen – beers with friends, movies, in class and meetings.

But is this still accurate?

I recline on my couch and try to read a book. But I am aware of the fact that I am shooting constant anxious glances at the WiFi icon at the bottom right-hand of my computer screen. My gaze fixes on the mocking yellow cone. Bastard. I give up the book and pace.

It’s during this pacing that I revisit my self-perception in terms of technology. I used to be much better about using technology in public or in meetings. I used to grumble to students who seemed to have one foot in the classroom and one foot in their Instagram feed.

But I wonder if I haven’t surrendered a bit to the god of the screen (Screendor? Screenus? I’ll work on it). There’s no doubt a notification buzz instantly draws me to my phone. Reading is interrupted constantly by the buzzes, dings, and beeps of my phone. It’s terrible. I watch a show while perusing Facebook and Twitter. But perhaps the most egregious crime is that I may interrupt my writing to check my email and be gone for twenty minutes. Not very disciplined for a dude who’s looking for more time to write.

I take out a notebook and a pen and I write a list of rules.

D’s Screen Time Rules and Guidelines  

No screen time until writing is over for the day (at least 7:30 a.m.).

Set 90 (or 60) minute timer on phone and then read until that timer goes off. Keep phone in other room until that timer goes off.

No screen time at the table with friends. Wait until toilet.

Screen time stops an hour before bed.

Do not bring phone to meetings or to class.

Never let anyone contacting me virtually become a priority over someone talking to me in person. If someone does that to you, let them know it immediately by saying something or walking away.

No internet browsing while writing.


I would be glad if you added a guideline or a rule to my list.

PS: The internet came back on thirty minutes later, so I didn’t have to go to the hospital.

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