9th March is Unplugging day. Well, it is no secret that we are increasingly connected to the world around us. Smartphones, tablets, WiFi access and the Internet have enabled us to be connected to the entire world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every single day of the year. This offers endless possibilities and has of course widened many people’s horizons immensely by showing them what the world is like thousands of miles away. However, there are also times in our lives when we seem to forget just how necessary it is to step back from out digital devices and other gadgetry and actually perform the ancient art of speaking with people around us and observe the world that is all around us, and not just the pixels forming images of reality on the screen in front of us. Not to mention how much we could help the environment by deciding to set our electrical equipment aside every now and then and just meet up with the people we’re endlessly e-chatting with for a coffee. The Day of Unplugging was created to do all of these things and more.
The History of the Day of Unplugging
The National Day of Unplugging was created by Reboot, a nonprofit Jewish community that was originally established in 2003. The idea behind the day was to challenge people to keep their electronic devices unplugged and unused for 24 hours in order to give themselves the chance to take a break and spend time relaxing with family, friends, or alone. This is definitely something that would be useful to everyone, regardless of religion or lack of it. Reboot believes that such time taken to “reboot” or systems will make us happier, more content with our lives, and more aware of the things that matter.
The Pros of unplugging
- Powering-down helps remove unhealthy feelings of jealousy, envy, and loneliness. Researchers recently discovered that one in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook and more dissatisfied with their lives. Certainly, not every interaction with Facebook is a negative one. But typically, our own experience validates their research. From family happiness to body image to vacation destinations to the silly number of birthday greetings on a Facebook wall, the opportunity for envy presents itself often on social media. Powering-down for a period of time provides opportunity to reset and refocus appreciation and gratitude for the lives we have been given.
- Powering-down combats the fear of missing out. Scientifically speaking, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has been recognized as a recently emerging psychological disorder brought on by the advance of technology. The premise is simple. Our social media streams are ever-filled with everything happening all around us. Nowadays, we even see the plates of food our friends are enjoying. And within this constant stream of notification, our fear of being left out continues to grow. Turning off social media and finding contentment in our present space is a welcome skill.
- Solitude is harder to find in an always-connected world. Solitude grounds us to the world around us. It provides the stillness and quiet required to evaluate our lives and reflect on the message in our hearts. In a world where outside noise is coming quicker and louder than ever, the need for solitude becomes more apparent… and easier to overlook. True solitude and meditation will always require the intentional action of shutting off the noise and the screens.
- Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you. Our world may be changing. But the true nature of life is not. Life, at its best, is happening right in front of you. These experiences will never repeat themselves. These conversations are unfiltered and authentic. And the love is real. But if we are too busy staring down at our screen, we’re going to miss all of it.
- Powering-down promotes creation over consumption. Essentially, most of our time is spent in one of two categories: consuming or creating. Certainly, technology can contribute to creating. For example, this article was written (created) on a computer. But most of the time we spend in front of technology is spent consuming (playing video games, browsing the Internet, watching movies, listening to music). But our world doesn’t need more consuming. It needs more creating. It needs your passion, your solution, and your unique contribution. Power-down. And begin contributing to a better world because of it.
- Addiction can only be understood when the object is taken away. Through a recent technological fast, I learned something about myself. I learned I am far more addicted to technology than I would have guessed. But that is the nature of addiction, isn’t it? We can never fully realize our level of addiction until the item is taken away. And the only way to truly discover technology’s controlling influence on your life is to turn it off, walk away, and sense how strong the pull is to turn it back on.
- Life is still about flesh, blood, and eye contact. There are valuable resources online to help us grow and evolve. I have been enriched by the connections I have made and the friends I have met. But no matter how much I interact with others through the miracle of technology, there is something entirely unique and fantastic about meeting face-to-face. The experience of looking another person in the eye without the filter of a screen changes everything. Each time, I am reminded that life’s most fulfilling relationships are the ones in the world right in front of me. And spending too much time looking away from them does a great disadvantage to my soul and theirs.
How to Celebrate the Day of Unplugging
Celebrating this day is quite simple. All that one is required to do is to disconnect from the virtual “matrix” which has come to define every waking moment of our lives. So, power down that laptop, leave the smartphone at home and avoid emails for twenty-four hours. Instead, take a walk in a local park, and don’t just rush through the park to get it over with, either. Take the time to observe the way the squirrels scamper up and down the trees, or the way the water flows in a stream, or how a mother duck looks after her young. Don’t just look at it as if it were a picture in a book, realize that you are a part of it, a part of nature, and appreciate that. Or you could go have a cup of coffee with a friend during which you talk about every issue that comes to mind, the large and the small, because these are the things that life is made of, all of them. And of course do not take your phone out to text while nodding absent-mindedly, as that would defeat the entire purpose of the outing. In this sense, the art of “powering down” can produce some truly relaxing results, so put down that smartphone and take advantage of this truly pleasurable experience.