Word-Of-the-Week #711: Unplug

March 22, 2018 by  

Unplugthe state of being disconnected from electronic devices.

This topic just doesn’t seem to want to go away! Which leads to me to believe it’s a much bigger problem than we think? Did you know they actually have a National Day of Unplugging?

“Unplug for a day” by LA Times author Catherine Price offers good advice for those of you who are addicted to your digital devices.

“My husband and I did an experiment several years ago that sounds simple, but changed our lives. It began like this: As we sat down for dinner on a Friday night, I lighted a candle, we each took a deep breath – and we turned our phones off.

Not airplane mode. Not “Do not disturb”. All the way off. For the next 24 hours, we observed what’s often called a digital Sabbath: We completely disconnected from screens, including phones, tablets and computers.

It was eye-opening. At first, we had to resist a constant urge to reach for our phones. But by the next morning, we were surprised to notice our attitudes beginning to shift – and our twitchiness beginning to fade.

In just one day, we took a long walk, read and cooked a nice meal. I felt more grounded, as if I were getting back in touch with a part of myself I hadn’t realised was missing. When the time came to turn our phones back on, we did so somewhat reluctantly and felt much less compelled to check them.

When I told other people about our experience, they were intrigued yet scared – mobile connectivity has become integral to our lives, after all. The trick, I’ve realised, is to prepare.

The National Day of Unplugging (March 9 and 10) is an event organised by Reboot, a non-profit that creates new ways for people to observe traditions such as a Sabbath day. Here are my suggestions for how to make the experience easier and more rewarding.

  • Set your rules. Are you just taking a break from your phone? Or are you avoiding any Internet-enabled devices with screens, including tablets, smartwatches and laptops?
  • Warn people. Tell your parents, friends, boss or anyone else who is likely to try to contact you that you will be unplugged.
  • Get others on board. Ideally, everyone in your household should participate. Recruit a friend or post on social media what you’ll be doing and invite others to join you.
  • Make plans. Schedule enjoyable activities in advance. Make a coffee date with a friend. Put a book you have been meaning to read on your coffee table. Print out a recipe you want to try. Dust off a musical instrument. If your whole family is observing a digital Sabbath, pull out a board game or plan a hike.
  • Set up autoreplies. The fear of missing a text message keeps many of us tethered to our phones. The solution is a text message auto-responder, saying you’ll reply the next day. Do the same thing for your e-mail.
  • Use call forwarding. Go ahead and send your smartphone calls to your landline, if you have one. My philosophy is that I’m taking a break from screens, not from other human beings. So I put no restriction on landline calls — they represent live contact with people.
  • Get it in writing. Write down phone numbers of people you might want to call. Also, if you’ll be navigating someplace new, print or write out the directions. You can always ask for directions from a real person.
  • Keep a list. Note on paper the things you want to do, buy or look up when your 24-hour break is over. You may well find that by the time you turn your phone back on, you no longer care.

Still freaked out by the idea of phonelessness? While writing a book on how we can create healthier relationships with our phones, I asked 150 volunteers to try their own digital Sabbaths and then asked them afterward if they would recommend the experience. The consensus? Definitely.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” wrote one person. “I really expected that there would be a pull toward my phone, but there wasn’t,” wrote another. “It was freeing. I was liberated.”

So go ahead – go dark for a day. If you can’t take it for more than two hours or even two minutes, you can always turn your phone back on. But you might be surprised by how empowering it can be to power down.”

This week’s focus is to uplug. Have you ever turned your devices off? How long did it last? When was the last time you felt truly liberated? Here’s an idea you could spend your “unplugged” time doing random acts of kindness!

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