By Hayley Tsukayama
We all spend much of our lives surrounded by screens. And there’s no denying that they’re pretty great – even occasionally indistinguishable from magic, to borrow from Arthur C. Clarke. But, every once in a while, it’s nice to be reminded to step away from them.
Even though I’m a journalist who obviously loves technology, I have been looking for ways to unplug more. And that’s the idea behind the National Day of Unplugging, a 24-hour tech-free period that starts at sundown on the first Friday of March. The day is organized by Reboot, a group that wants to revive the idea of the traditional Jewish Sabbath as a time to unplug and reset.
But you don’t need to be Jewish to want to participate. You don’t even need an official day. Many people have advocated for us to just put our darn phones down. Recently, a Chick-fil-A franchise owner even started offering free ice cream to families that agree to have a meal while storing their phones in a coop.
For some people, the problem goes beyond wanting to sneak a peek at Instagram during dinner. Addiction to technology can be devastating, particularly for young people, says Hilarie Cash, who co-founded the reStart technology addiction center.
Obviously, not everyone who uses technology is an addict. But Cash says unplugging regularly from an always-on world promotes a healthy relationship with your technology.
And there are some ways to go about it. “The first step is to take a break so the brain comes back to normal functioning,” Cash said. Second, it’s important to have a plan for how to properly balance tech use in your life.
Balance is a goal of mine once I saw how much I was dreading the pings and buzzes of my smartphones. (Yes, smartphones. Plural.) The main thing I’ve done to get some space from my screens has been to keep my phones out of my bedroom. I can still hear the phone ring in case of an emergency. But I don’t check my email or get on my social media accounts from bed. I even bought an alarm clock – a real one – to give myself some space from my phone in the first moments after I wake up.
I’ve also looked for ways for technology to help me unplug. The irony of this approach hasn’t escaped me. For example, setting a schedule to send your phone into “do not disturb” mode removes a lot of temptation to plug in at night. Timer apps, such as 30/30 or even the basic app on your phone can help you budget time to focus on tasks and give yourself permission to put your phone down.
Reboot even made an app for you to start your digital off day just right. The iOS app, called Friday, gives you a conversation prompt and some short essays half an hour before sundown Friday.
Even for those who don’t think they have a serious addiction, Cash still thinks that setting up a full day every week to unplug is a worthy goal. “It will give your brain time to reset,” she said.
Besides, if you find you really can’t do it, that might be a red flag. Using technology is great; not being able stop is another thing altogether.
(C) 2016, The Washington Post · Hayley Tsukayama