Zoom on Screens, Health, and Rest During Coronavirus

Dear Community,

It feels like life is grabbing us all by the shoulders, asking us to think about how we're living our lives, and to think about what matters most.

Before this pandemic, it felt like we, as a society, were everywhere and nowhere, staring at our screens when we were with people, never fully present. I am hopeful that when we emerge from this situation, we will better appreciate the time we are actually together in person. I’m also hopeful -- I think we’re seeing it already -- that the way we interact on the web will become more human. And that the extraordinary circumstances of this time will lead to positive change for society. That we will take this opportunity to stop, and ask the big questions, like how are we treating the planet and each other, and how can we build the world we want?

While our collective attention needs to stay on staying safe and getting ahead of this pandemic (eternal gratitude to the health care professionals and essential workers), there are also many other lessons to be learned from this lockdown for the rest of us at home sheltered in place. And I think an important one is about when to use technology for good, and when to turn it off. The web is providing a lifeline to so many of us right now, allowing us to feel less isolated, letting millions of people work and school from home and keep life going in some ways (although not all, as half the world is still offline and 29% of New York City homes don’t have home access). 

But in this new reality, for many of us screens are dominating our lives even more than before. I’m going from screen to screen to screen -- from news, to work, to a Zoom workout, to Zooms with friends and family that bring joy, then back to another screen that raises my cortisol level. Living so much more on screens right now is taxing my mind, body, and soul in new ways. 

These past several weeks during the quarantine, Ken and the kids (almost 17 and 11) and I have been looking forward to our Tech Shabbats in a whole new way. Turning off screens now feels like it provides double resilience for the soul, and I believe a break is good for the immune system, too.

Tech Shabbat has also been helping to makesense of this unusual way we are living, where time seems to blur between days and between work and family and life. Shabbat, and Tech Shabbat, is a day unlike the others, a day carved out from the rest, a day dedicated to be present, reflect, rest, appreciate and find joy in what’s right in front of you, and focus on what really matters. 

Zoom Book Talk

I invite you to join me in a Zoom talk and discussion drawn from my book 24/6 about screens, time, rest, health, and creating boundaries to focus on what’s most important. We’ll talk about:

  • The historical context of a day of rest, and pandemics, and what’s the best that might come from this.

  • The science of why taking a day of rest, and time away for screens, is good for your brain, body, and soul.

  • How to: Approaches on how to get your family, partner, and boss on board and what to do (by age) on your screen free day. (It’s easier than you think.)

  • The short term and long term benefits of unplugging regularly.

The Zoom discussion will be Wednesday, April 22nd 11am PT / 2pm ET. You can register here (it’s free but this will allow you to add it to your calendar)

If you haven't yet read 24/6 and you'd like to, you can support your local bookstore by ordering through their website, or use my favorite Bay Area bookstore, Book Passage. Or, go with the audio version (I do the reading) here, or ebook here.

My brother, Dr. Jordan Shlain’s NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED

The United States Needs a ‘Smart Quarantine’

Evidence from around the world shows that stay-at-home orders take us only so far. By Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, Dr. Jim Yong Kim and Dr. Jordan Shlain

The response of the United States to the coronavirus pandemic has been haphazard, a patchwork of rules applied inconsistently. Some states lack stay-at-home mandates, and many that have mandates got started less than a week ago. We’re suffering under a jumble of half measures that are likely to drag on for months and that fail to solve the problem.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Continue reading...

The Adaptable Mind

I wanted to share with you a 10-minute cloud film that our film studio Let it Ripple made in 2015 about the artist Mary Beth Heffernan’s great idea, brought to health care workers in Hazmat suits at the frontlines of the Ebola epidemic, that again feels relevant. Watch here.

Other Upcoming Events

We are busy working on our new cloud film on the current situation and will be able to share soon.

For those of you who haven’t yet joined our Zoom Baking Class on Fridays, they have been a bright light in a dark time. This week we are making homemade matzos with guest chefs from New York’s Gefilteria. It will be this Friday at 12:30pmPT/3:30pm All info on that here.

In Closing

I’m turning 50 tomorrow, April 8th. Having it happen during lockdown is like pulling focus on a camera to ask, “What matters most?”

So here's to family, friends, health, food, shelter, a strong community, and a society that looks after each other.

And to those celebrating Passover, Chag Sameach.

Sending you all love, health, and strength,


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