So many things were cancelled this past year — my 50th birthday celebration, my daughters’ graduation, annual trips to visit family, school — but the one thing our family could count on each week was what we call our Tech Shabbat. A full day, each week, with no screens.
When my family and I started doing our weekly Tech Shabbats over a decade ago, I was looking for a way to slow the world down. I’d just lost my father to brain cancer suddenly. Way too suddenly. My life felt like the trash compactor scene in Star Wars, where the walls are closing in. Everything was coming at me all the time: the phone, the laptop, distractions and notifications hijacking my life. I had to brace my reality with something, and quickly discovered that turning off the screens each week did the trick. I eventually wrote a book about it called 24/6: Giving Up Screens One Day Each Week To Get Back Time, Creativity & Connection.
That was all before the pandemic. When COVID came, we became even more reliant on screens, with so many benefits. But with all those screens came constant stress. It felt like the walls were closing in again. All over the country, all over the world, we lost so much: loved ones, income, security. Time seemed to blur as we lost the many traditions that mark the year: graduation, gatherings, movies, sports, you name it. As the walls closed in, everything we rely on was cancelled.
Here’s the thing: You can’t cancel Shabbat. During this uncertain time, our weekly Tech Shabbat became more important than ever. It was the one thing we could count on, a boundary that stopped the blurring of time and reminded us to focus on what matters. A few months in, my teenage daughter told me, “Tech Shabbat is the only time I don’t feel like I’m in quarantine.”
The new year is bringing promising changes. A vaccine means the end of quarantine is in sight. And as 2020 was incredibly hard, there are things that I hope I’ll remember: the value of pausing. Slowing down. Reflecting. Thinking about what really matters. Being grateful.
In partnership with One Table, an organization that brings people together of all backgrounds for shabbat, and a very talented fellow producer, Broadway’s Adam Kantor, we set out to make a short film and asked interesting culture makers what they had learned this past year. We spoke with Queer Eye’s Tan France; NPR’s All Things Considered’s Ari Shapiro; NY Times best-selling author Roxane Gay, V (formerly Eve Ensler); performers Beanie Feldstein, Shoshana Bean, Adam Chandler-Berat, and Shakina Neyfack; chef Mike Solomonov; and thought leaders Debbie Millman and Rabbi Sandra Lawson.
So here is our film: What we learned in 2020 and what we want to bring into 2021!
To a year where we have the opportunity to bring this wisdom forward.