National Day Of Unplugging Starts Digital Sabbath Tonight
March 1, 2013

Digital Sabbath: Can You Unplug For 25 Hours?

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

There is perhaps no better indicator of how reliant Americans have become on their digital devices than the fact that a National Day of Unplugging exists. That we must put aside a special day to disconnect from all things digital is a clear signal that we use our computers, smartphones and tablets as very real vices to get us through the day or distract us from real world problems.

As we´re in the middle of Lent season, many in the world are particularly familiar with what it means to give up their vices for a certain period of time. And like Lent, the National Day of Unplugging (NDU) also has religious roots. Sabbath Manifesto is an organization with a radical mission: To slow down the lives of others. NDU is one extension of that, challenging people to observe one Sabbath a year by disconnecting from the digital world and getting in touch with something analog, like reading a book, having a family walk, or even taking a nap.

Started in 2010 by Reboot, an extension of Sabbath Manifesto, the NDU takes place each year on the first Friday in March — or at least it has for the last three years.

It´s an idea as ancient as some of civilization´s oldest works of literature. The Jewish faith — and to an extent, the Christian faith as well — has long observed Sabbath as a time to rest, stay at home and be with family in a time of solemn reflection. Just like Sabbath, the NDU will begin this evening at sundown and end at sundown tomorrow. Though traditional times for Sabbath will be observed, the organizers of NDU aren´t asking participants to abide by full Sabbath law, which can be much more strict than simply refusing to check email or Instagram your brunch.

There are stories all over the Internet today about people who have become simply addicted to their technology. For hundreds of millions of people, technology is a way to earn a living and stay close to loved ones. Yet, for all of its benefits, technology can be a dangerous analgesic that we use to numb ourselves to everyday life. For many, technology is an emotional and psychological crutch, feeding their need to feel not only connected, but needed and important as well. These feelings, along with some points of peer pressure, can lead to a very real addiction to technology, especially to cell phones.

Though the Sabbath Manifesto has emphasized the more solemn aspects of NDU, it seems that it´s mostly being observed like any other novelty holiday such as National Cupcake Day, National Planting Day or even National Margarita Day. There are certainly those who are dedicated and ready to go “off-the-grid” for a full 25 hours — people for whom NDU is chance to take a pilgrimage to a lost place of unfettered, low-tech bliss. For others, it simply presents a fun chance to try out an experiment, a topic to chat about or an excuse to avoid an uncomfortable phone call.

One group called Digital Detox in the particularly connected urban milieu of San Francisco has even decided to make a party out of NDU, complete with “device-free drinks,” hand drawn portraits, typewriters and other forms of analog detritus from a bygone era.

There´s still time left to head over the NDU Web site and take the pledge to unplug and print off a cute little flyer for the occasion. If you´ve noticed yourself checking your laptop, phone and tablet a little too often lately, perhaps this is just the excuse you´ve been looking for to get away for a solemn 25 hours of unwired reflection.