In our hyperconnected and always-on culture, stepping away from our gadgets for one day can be a move in the right direction for slowing down and connecting with people, not screens.
Along with all of the wonderful ways that technology, especially mobile tech, has enriched our lives at work and at play, at home and at the office, it can also serve as a social crutch and an avoidance device, and can create barriers to authentic face-to-face connections. And whether it's because of our fear of missing out (FOMO) or because we simply can't stand to be still and silent by ourselves for very long these days, we're more likely to be found staring at our screens than looking another human being in the eyes, even while among friends and family.
One method of bringing some balance back to our lives is to set up specific "down" or offline hours or days, where we step away from our screens and gadgets and take that time to reconnect with the people we love, and to just experience the physical world around us with our own senses, not through the lens of a smartphone or tablet. We've done this in our house with a weekly tech-free day, where we all go offline and any gadgets and screens stay dark for that day, and we do things together as a family instead. This can be surprisingly hard, but once it becomes a habit, that day of rest is something to look forward to, as the slow pace of unplugged life that day feels like it serves as a reboot button for the next week, in the form of a digital detox, so to speak.
"We have reached a tipping point where technology has invaded every aspect of our lives and is turning our friends and families into proverbial third wheels. We are encouraging people to take a pause to unplug and engage in life without digital connections, and to also take stock of their tech use and its impact. Most people probably don’t realize how profound it is." - Robin Kramer, Reboot Executive Director
If this appeals to you, and you can see a need for more digital downtime in your life, a great time to start is tonight at sundown, when the National Day of Unplugging 2018 begins. From sundown tonight, until sundown tomorrow night (March 10), participants pledge to unplug from their devices and "start living a different life":
"We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerrys, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of “silence” that our earphones create.
If you recognize that in yourself – or your friends, families or colleagues— join us for the National Day of Unplugging, sign the Unplug pledge and start living a different life: connect with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child." - National Day of Unplugging
The National Day of Unplugging is an extension of Reboot's Sabbath Manifesto, which aims to re-adapt the ritual of taking one day a week to relax, unwind, reflect, and connect with family and friends, to our modern times. The Sabbath Manifesto, which serves a guide to observing a weekly day of rest, and slowing down our hectic lives, includes 10 core principles to follow or interpret as desired, in order to create your own weekly ritual (some of you will probably start with #7).
As part of the event, the National Day of Unplugging asks users to sign a pledge committing to unplug that day, and to also create their own version of the Unplug sign and then share it on the site. A kit for kids and families and teachers is also available for download, and a brief list of ideas for what to do during the unplugging can get you started if you're stumped.
And even if you can't unplug tonight for whatever reason, you can commit to having your own day of unplugging whenever it works for you, or experiment with having certain hours of the day or week where you go unplugged for your own personal digital detox sessions.
This updated article was originally published in 2015.