Turn Off Your Phone On National Day Of Unplugging
March 7, 2014

Turn Off Your Phone On National Day Of Unplugging

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Taking a break from your daily activities helps you unwind, refresh and revitalize to help you get through the rest of the day. But for many, there is no break from the always-connected modern age of society.

Everywhere we go we are not far from our smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, allowing us to be constantly in touch with the rest of the world via social media. And when at home, computers, laptops and entertainment systems keep us all interconnected as well, with the only break usually coming from those few hours of shuteye we get each night.

A growing movement wants to change this always on, always connected way of life to make taking a break from our devices a common rule, rather than an a rare exception. As part of this growing movement, the first Friday in March is reserved for a National Day of Unplugging, a global initiative launched by the nonprofit organization Reboot in 2002 to help people disconnect from their always-on lifestyles.

"I think that people are overwhelmed. It's physically taken a toll on people," Reboot's communications manager, Tanya Schevitz, told CNN’s Heather Kelly in an interview. "If you think you have to respond to everything all the time, that's an unrealistic expectation."

The National Day of Unplugging begins at sundown tonight and last through sundown tomorrow, and people are encouraged to put away their cellphones, laptops, computers, games and any other connected devices to celebrate the digital Sabbath (traditionally observed as a day of resting).

Instead of checking Facebook to see what your friends and family are up to, try reaching out to them in person. If spending time with others is not available to you, then taking time for yourself works just as well. Spend the day taking a hike or riding a bike. Take time to finish a project or start your spring cleaning. If anything, maybe this day of rest actually means you can get a restful night’s sleep.

Participants are encouraged to sign a pledge on the National Day of Unplugging event website and post a photo telling others why they unplug. The site’s homepage is now littered with hundreds of photos of participants and their pledges on why they are unplugging, including:

Tara Mann, from New York City, says she unwinds to “Read comic books.”

Israel Ganot, from Boston, says he unplugs to “Play with my kids.”

And Matt and Mimi Youngner, from San Francisco, say they unplug to “Hike with our dog.”

Along with the hundreds of participants who have signed pledges on the website, the project organizers have also signed on more than 200 local and national groups as partners, including the Ad Council and Google. Many of these partners have their own official events to celebrate the National Day of Unplugging.

While the holiday only lasts 24 hours, the project organizers would like to see it catch on, allowing people to become more aware of the impact their always-connected lifestyle has on their work, their family and most importantly, their mental and physical well-being. Through this knowledge, people could eventually begin to take short timeouts from their always-on lifestyles and eventually find a balance.

"Day to day, throughout your day, you should be thinking about unplugging moments," Schevitz told CNN.

Unplugging is a relatively new concept in society. If you think back about 15 years or so, the Internet was just beginning to catch on and social networking was unheard of. People today are largely connected to the Internet world thanks to the titans of social networking Facebook and Twitter, two companies that have driven social media through the roof.

In this day and age it will be increasingly difficult to pull people away from their always-connected social lifestyles. And there is nary a place one can go to escape the reach of the Internet thanks to mobile technology. And because it has become a fixed tool in our daily lives, we constantly feel the need to check our phones for emails, texts and tweets. And even when our phones are not ringing, we feel the need to pick them up and use them anyway.

A lot of research is now being conducted on the effects and impacts smartphones and mobile technologies have on our lives. Be it at work, at home or on the road, we are constantly connected to society and there eventually has to be a breaking point somewhere.

While many of us feel the need to always be connected, we seldom realize the effects it not only has on our own well-being, but the well-being of those around us, including our colleagues, spouses, children, friends and everyone else around us.

In the CNN report, Schevitz explained that she recently had the chance to speak with an eighth-grade class about unplugging. She said many of the students shared stories of parents who were always working or too busy using their smartphones to listen to what their children had to say.

When we think of addiction, we tend to think about alcoholism, smoking and drugs. But technology is fast becoming an addiction that many people may have a hard time quitting.

It may take a lot of willpower to step away from technology and Schevitz has some general tips for those interested in trying to unplug from their always-connected lifestyles.

She told CNN that when people go to sleep at night they should use an alarm clock rather than their smartphone. This way, they are not tempted to check their device right before bedtime and first thing in the morning.

She said people should also set goals and schedule times when it may be beneficial to not rely on the comfort of their phone. These times should be when they are alone and idle. It is often during these times that people will instinctively pick up their phone. Instead, people should be observing their surroundings and taking in the moments that would otherwise slip right by unnoticed.

Most importantly, if you decide to put down your phone or other device for an extended amount of time, be sure to let people know. In this day and age of constant-connectivity, going a few hours or longer sans phone may be enough to cause concern from your friends and family, especially if you are breaking from a normal routine.