“Somebody once said to me that a computer fits with anxiety like a lock in a key...and that’s exactly right. You have an anxious moment out in your life, or in your world, and you want a little hit, and your e-mail can do that.” The New York Times quotes Jill Soloway, an L.A. based television producer and writer on why she participates in National Day of Unplugging. Technology fits into the physical and emotional landscapes of our lives so seamlessly these days, we can begin to wonder what we did without it. But the facts remain, that despite its connective powers, technology appears to be washing our social skills, and expectations of each other, down the proverbial sink.
Starting tomorrow, Friday March 7th at sundown and ending on Saturday March 8th at sundown is the 2014 National Day of Unplugging. This is a 24 hour period to put down your smart phones and tablets, take your nose out of your laptop, and pluck the earplugs out of your ears, a day to live differently, and appreciate a world with less technology and more human connection.
NDU was initiated in 2002 by the Reboot, a network of tech-savvy, progressive Jewish professionals who produce projects and events, as a way of taking time to appreciate family, nature, and stillness. With an obvious connection to the traditional day of rest, the Sabbath, they created it as part of the Sabbath Manifesto, which is a movement that is described as being similar to Slow Food, with members taking action to put the breaks on the unrelenting speed of modern life, and carving out time to reflect. Of course, there is also the environmental aspect. Speed, which so often mirrors consumption, is halted, and as we are turning off our devices we are not relying on electricity for charge. In this dual shift, we are encouraged to feel a connection to our surroundings, and live sustainably in a number of ways.
The idea is that the time spent while unplugged is up to you, and the day is non-denominational and open to global participation. What kinds of things would you be doing if you didn't have a cell phone at all? Would you engage with people more? Would you keep to yourself, or read a book? How would you relax if not by watching your favorite series on Netflix? In theory, I find it easy enough to answer these questions. I love to read, I hate texting people, I would go to a yoga class, I would walk around, I would draw! And yet habit is so often an unyielding creature, and I identify with Jill Soloway's words so much more than I want to. I am comforted by refreshing my email, and I insist that if I didn't check social media daily, I might miss something, an event, an opportunity, something funny and uplifting. I am actually reluctant to admit how much I have missed in return for this devotion for checking data on a screen. I will unplug tomorrow at sunset to face my banal, low-level anxiety, and turn around, however slightly, what it means to me to have a fear of missing out. I will probably cook, sing to myself a lot, perhaps write a letter, and then ride my bike to work in the afternoon.
What might you do? So many possibilities in the world of the unplugged!