Take Back the Bedroom (And Keep Out the Screens)

There’s a commercial, now, that runs through a series of people so focused on their phones that they’re ignoring the world around them. I’d call it great (maybe even clever!) were it not just a build-up for a different phone that’s supposed to magically bring us back to the world around us.

Right. Nice try.

But there’s a scene in this commercial that stood out to me: a woman (who looks suspiciously like a mannequin) stands ignored by her husband in their bedroom. This should seem especially strange when you see that she’s rocking some kind of slinky lingerie and looking very upset that her dear husband hasn’t even noticed.

He’s on the phone, after all.

It’s a silly commercial, like I said, but those few seconds alone got me thinking.

What happened to the bedroom? What happened to that haven of peace and quiet? What happened to the one room in the house that was a good place just to get away from it all?

“It” creeped in. The screens got in. I think it’s time we kick them out.

KEEPING OUT THE SCREENS (AND THE CLOUD, WHILE WE’RE AT IT)

Do you text in the bedroom?

Or, better yet, open the laptop in bed? Have you ever found yourself sitting quietly under the sheets with your significant other, both of you with eyes locked on the television screen — not on each other?

Doesn’t that seem strange?

Doesn’t that seem impersonal? What happened to the bedroom? What happened to the one room in the house where two people could truly take a step back from the world and focus on the one they loved?

The cloud crept in. You sit in bed, now, but you’re not alone — your Facebook friends are with you. You lock eyes on your iPhone and skim through the latest updates, (vaguely) interested in seeing what other people are doing, when your time could be far better spent focusing on the people that genuinely matter.

That’d be you. And your husband/wife. Every minute in the cloud is a minute away from your significant other, that person you care for most. And even if you’re single, the point still stands: every minute in the cloud — every minute with a screen — is a minute not spent on the person who should be most important in your life: you.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Unplug that stuff. Move it.

It’s as simple as that, really. Move all of those tech toys into another part of the house. Designate your bedroom as an official “screen-free” zone, and try really hard to never bring your phone inside it. Considering leaving your cellphone on the kitchen counter overnight.

That might seem drastic, but I promise it’s not. It’s actually pretty simple. You’re taking back your bedroom, and you’re doing it by disconnecting from the outside world — that never-sleeping Internet that has sneaked into our homes over the last decade.

And once you’re screen-free, you should find those evening hours to be ripe with possibility. Here are a few ideas on things you can do:

1. Read. When you get ready to go to sleep at night, don’t turn on the TV or flip open the laptop. Read a book. Stop watching reruns of American Idol and focus on improving yourself via some of the greatest tools we own: books.
2. Talk. What do you have to lose? With the TV absent and the computers left in the living room, you might find yourself in an interesting situation: you have to talk to your significant other. There are no easy distractions here. You’ll need to have a genuine conversation — maybe the kind you haven’t had in years — and rediscover, bit by bit, how you and your significant other operate without the constant flicker of a laptop screen beside you.
3. Meditate. Don’t get wrapped up in definitions of what it is. Just do it. Sit comfortably with your legs crossed and back straight and try and listen to your mind for awhile. It’s not easy, certainly, in today’s world of constant distractions, but taking time to focus on yourself can have incredible benefits.
4. Sex. It goes without saying, I hope. (And Adam Baker over at Man Vs. Debt claims couples without a TV in the bedroom are two to three times more likely to have sex. He has kids, so I’m willing to take his word for it.)
5. Sleep. Why not go to bed early for a change? Your body will thank you for it, and you’ll find that you have a far easier time snoozing when you don’t watch TV for an hour before bed.
6. Write yourself a letter. The post calls for a computer, but there’s no reason you can’t do it with pen and paper.

You’ll notice the common trend here: all of these things benefit you and yours in some significant way. That’s not to say you won’t learn something by watching the History channel late at night, but what would you rather gain: a passing interest in a subject not particularly relevant to your life, or a meaningful conversation with the person you love most?

Easy choice, right?

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

It’s your room.

I can’t stress that enough. Our homes, now, don’t always feel like the one place in the world where we can truly get away from it all. Anyone with kids can probably agree with that, especially since finding a nice, quiet place to relax and just be you can be so difficult in a crowded house.

Take back your bedroom.

Decide, now, that you want a room for you. You want a room where you can read or work or talk or just sit still for a few damn minutes and really, truly live in the moment.

Decide, now, that you want a room for you and yours. You want a room where you can focus solely on the other most significant person in your life, a room where you won’t spend any more nights sitting together and staring at a shiny screen. If you’re living with this person, live with this person. Don’t waste any more minutes being near them but not with them.

And decide, now, that you don’t want to reach for the laptop. You don’t want to see what’s on TV. Hell, you don’t want to interact with the cloud in any way, bringing your Twitter feed or Facebook friends into the one room in the house that should be just for you.

Take some time for you. Take some time for yours. And take back your bedroom, now, and turn it into what it should be: a place where the world can’t find you, a place where — for those few hours each night — there is nothing else in the world save for you and the person you love most.


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18 Comments

  1. Kenna says:

    I love this post, Matt! I think so many of us are guilty of this. My husband and I both bring our phones to bed because they’re are alarm clocks. However, it often means that we are online until we’re ready to go to sleep and sometimes first thing after we wake up. Checking e-mail is no way to start the day! I also now bring my iPad to bed some evenings. Oh, and did I mention that we fall asleep every night with the TV on? We need to unplug our bedroom!

    I also think this post applies to family time. I chuckle sometimes when I look around our family room and see that myself, my daughter and my husband are all on some type of device. Many times this is happening while my son is playing his DS! We have so little time together. We should be spending it better. Shame, shame, shame!

    Thanks for writing this.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      My pleasure! :)

      Your experience, I think, is a common one — we get so wrapped up in our digital worlds that we don’t ever stop to consider the real one. I was at a party recently, and the first thing I saw when I walked in the door was about half of the people there staring at their phones. We live in a strange world when social events (inside and outside of the home) involve people barely looking at each other, haha.

      Sounds like you’re thinking the same thing! Might be time to implement mandatory family time, eh?

  2. Nina Yau says:

    Love this post, it just keeps getting better and better, Matt! The fact that you live what you write about is a true testament that this works. Or, one could be a focused ninja like I am and just kill all distractions that come my way. :)

    • Mike Donghia says:

      Nina! Matt! You two are awesome :)

      This post is really useful bro. I think the bedroom should be a sacred place where you can truly relax. Everywhere else it’s go, go, go. Thanks for reminding us to turn off the phones, flip down the screens, and focus on the people in our lives that really matter.

      Peace

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Not everyone has your ninja skills, my friend. The rest of us will just have to kick the screens out the door. ;)

      I almost mistyped “ninja” as “nina.” How did I never make that connection before? :D

  3. Chase Night says:

    My girlfriend is going to love this post. I use my phone as our alarm clock, but that usually means I can’t resist that last check-in with the world before I pass out. But since I’ve got nowhere to be in the morning, I’m going to leave it the living room tonight. ;)

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      I know the feeling, man. It’s so tempting to stay connected when you have your phone right next to you. :)

      How’d it go when you left it in the living room? Kinda makes you aware of how often we let the screens dominate our bedrooms, doesn’t it?

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  5. Kevin Olega says:

    I love your post. Especially about how we end up mis-using the bedroom. Time to take the bedroom back.

  6. Joe Dixon says:

    This is a great post! I can’t wait to link this to my new wife. We haven’t had the opportunity to share a room for a significant amount of time yet, but I have said in the past that I want to keep the bedroom free of too much stuff. I want it to be for two things, both beginning with ‘S’.

    I think that the advice to unplug your bedroom is solid. I know that my sister struggles with having electrical appliances in her room, full stop. She has strange dreams and doesn’t sleep well when there are (specifically receiving, i.e. TV, computer) devices in her room.

    I am looking forward to the day, specifically January 10th, 2011, when I can go to sleep, with my wife, in our flat, without anything electrical in my bedroom. Having been a student, and only having one private room, for the last three years I know about the detriment to both work and rest of doing both in the same room.

    Roll on 01/10/11!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thanks, Joe!

      Roll on indeed. :) I know the feeling about not sleeping well with all the blinking lights in my room, and it sounds like you’re familiar with it too after those three years of student living (I seem to remember not sleeping at all my freshman year, but maybe for a different reason, haha).

      Good luck getting your wife on board! And congrats! If you need a little more convincing, get her a copy of a book called Hamlet’s Blackberry. It’s written by a father, and his perspective on how technology is changing both the family and the home is pretty profound. It’s definitely recommended!

  7. Chandra says:

    Awesome point!
    I don’t know why everyone seems to think that a TV needs to be in EVERY room of the house, which is then usually followed by the dvd, dvr/cable, gaming consoles… etc.
    …*sigh*…
    Anyway, I must agree there are SO many more enjoyable ways to spend one’s time in a bedroom. ;D

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  9. Layla says:

    My boyfriend has trouble falling asleep unless he’s watching TV, and I have trouble falling asleep when there’s light flashing in my eyes and unrealistically witty conversations. I find I don’t wake up as refreshed. (He says he used to read books, so when/if we eventually move in together I’m going to ask him to read a book instead. But for now, it’s his room. I just hint.)

    Also, Adam Baker over at Man Vs. Debt is totally right. I will use that as leverage to get him to stop watching TV. Because it’s true and I know it and he knows it.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Haha! Great points all around, especially in regards to the excessively witty dialogue. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who finds it disturbing and woefully unrealistic.

      Something tells me Adam Baker’s argument won’t be a hard one to make. ;)