Many moons ago in one of my media classes, we were asked to go on a week-long media fast in which we didn’t listen to the radio or watch television or read a book – well, except for homework purposes. Of course, this was during a time where the Internet was still fairly new, so it wasn’t uncommon that we didn’t include that in our projects. It wasn’t a part of our everyday lives. But a week without music or television or reading was quite a feat then.
Nowadays, with smartphones and tablets and wireless connections galore, we are so connected to everyone in the ether, and yet we are seeing a disconnect to those who are physically around us every day. This sort of always-on attitude, while great for work productivity, has put a damper on traditional activities, like going outside or eating a meal with our friends or families.
That’s the reason why Reboot, a Jewish organization, instituted a National Day of Unplugging. Based on the Sabbath tradition in which everything is unplugged on a Saturday for 24 hours, this day aims to bring us back to what’s most important – life, without the cord.
“The National Day of Unplugging is a respite from the relentless deluge of technology and information. With roots in Jewish tradition, this modern day of rest was developed by Reboot as a way to bring some balance to our increasingly fast-paced way of life and reclaim time to connect with family, friends, the community and ourselves,” explains the pledge.
Perhaps some people will find 24 hours without contact a little frightening. Nomophobia, the fear of being out of mobile contact, might consume a few too many to even give it a try.
Or maybe it’s a fear of missing out, or FOMO, that stops people from turning off their devices and Internet connections?
FOMO blends the feeling of inadequacy with anxiety and irritation, leading social users who witness their friends checking in on FourSquare or by other means to feel left out. While the connected aspect of social networking brings us all closer together, particularly when it comes to formerly detached friends and family, the dark side has cooked up classic cases of FOMO for many.
When Jenna Wortham of the NYT asked Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle how we can deal with FOMO as a society, the answer was pretty simple. She said she would tell herself to “get a grip and separate myself from my iPhone.”
Perhaps the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, in the wise words of FDR. What could possibly be so bad about disconnecting and enjoying a bit of fresh air with some of our kin?
“The never-ending stream of information that we’re exposed to on a daily basis and the ever-present glow of a screen can be overwhelming,” Schlesinger told the Times of Israel. “Technology overuse takes an immeasurable toll on our ability to give time to the things that are most important in our lives – friends, family, good food, our communities and ourselves.”
I remember that media fast all those years ago like it was yesterday and I’ll be quite honest, it was nothing compared to being detached from my iPhone today. I will be the first to admit that I tend to get a little antsy when I haven’t checked my email or Twitter stream in at least an hour. However, this National Day of Unplugging is as good of a reason to leave my devices to, well, their own devices and head out and enjoy some sunshine this weekend.
Will you give it a try?
Try taking part in the National Day of Unplugging for a digital detox from sunset March 23 to sunset March 24, 2012.
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