In today’s hyper-connected world, we all need a little respite from the constant flow of information. Luckily for us, a group known as the Sabbath Manifesto organizes an annual event to encourage us to briefly disconnect from the digital world—the National Day of Unplugging.
During the beginning of March, there is a designated 24-hour technology-free window that runs from Friday night until sundown the following evening. This tech hiatus is designed to provide much needed relief from the ever-present influx of notifications, emails, and alerts that come from our cell phones and other web-enabled devices.
Imagine getting up in the world and not being overwhelmed with the content of your inboxes or your phone’s lock screen? Take a moment to visualize how your day might feel if you took a break from caring about the minutiae of other peoples’ lives and started fully experiencing your own? This is exactly the kind of life that the National Day of Unplugging can introduce us to.
Does this sound like the kind of holiday you can get behind? We definitely think it is an idea worth taking seriously, as everyone can benefit from a little less screen time. If you are on board, read on and find out why the National day of Unplugging is so crucial in today’s society.
Why We Need to Unplug
Every day we wake up to the sound of the alarm clock apps ringing from our cell phones. Immediately, we grab our phones to shut off the noise and suddenly we are inundated by a screen showcasing all of the notifications that accrued while we slept.
Right off the bat, this can be paralyzing for productivity. From the minute we wake up we are already locked into the constant supply of pixelated stimulation that keeps up occupied throughout the day. Even with our phones in our pockets or by our sides, our minds are preoccupied with the thought of checking it.
From hour to hour, or even minute to minute, we check our phones to make sure our inboxes are accounted for. We scroll endlessly through our social media apps to make sure we know what our friends and colleagues are up to. From dusk till dawn, the constant drone of our phone screens keeps us in tune with the digital world.
This is no way to live. Our bodies and minds are not meant to spend every waking hour in constant communication with everybody around us. It disrupts our circadian rhythm, our social lives, and the active lifestyles that our bodies crave.
The National Day of Unplugging gives us a taste of what it is like to finally let go. To finally put our phones away and see clearly what we have been missing for all this time. Without our phones and digital devices, we can return to our natural state—one in which we are connected to each other and the physical world around us.
This is the way life is meant to be lived. In communion with the reality that surrounds us, and not isolated or estranged from it by the distractions provided by our screens. That is why we suggest breaking free, by unplugging from our devices, even for just a day.
What is the National Day of Unplugging?
The National Day of Unplugging is 24 hour period that occurs at the beginning of March every year. The National Day of Unplugging (NDU) emphasizes the importance of taking a break from screen time by doing other activities such as reading a book, jogging, meditating, or taking a hike through the woods. However, the possibilities are endless.
The idea behind NDU is simple, and so is the execution. All that is asked of participants is that they place their cell phones in a “sleeping bag” provided to everyone who pledges to take part. Basically, this involves putting your phone on silent while it stays tucked away in a little cloth pouch. Also, you are barred from watching TV or surfing the internet on any other device.
The NDU movement was first conceived of by a Jewish-American organization based out of Brooklyn, New York known as The Sabbath Manifesto. This organization was inspired by the religious concept of the Sabbath, with commits one day of the week to go without work or labour, and also to unwind, reconnect with family, and to reflect.
The Sabbath Manifesto is a part of a series of projects by Reboot. This larger organization’s mission statement is to affirm the value of Jewish traditions, such as the Sabbath, and to find new ways to apply them to modern life. Reboot embraces philosophy, creativity, and social justice to generate interest in Jewish traditions in their community.
We think that the National Day of Unplugging has been a smashing success. Over the years, it has caught on like wildfire and all around the world it is being practiced by people of all faiths and creeds.
By 2018, a grand total of 112,000 people have signed up to pledge a day of absence from their cell phones, tablets, and other digital screens. Over the years, it has been featured in the New York Times, CBS Evening News, and the Wall Street Journal. Clearly, the NDU is picking up some serious traction.
The Benefits of Unplugging for a Day
As you might imagine, there are countless benefits to taking some time off from your screen. While this list is potentially endless, we’ve compiled some of our top reasons for taking a leave of absence from the digital world.
Sticking to a “digital diet” has a myriad of benefits for one’s body. For one, science has shown that limiting our exposure to light-emitting devices before bed results in greatly improved quality of sleep. The blue light that these devices produce causes our eyes to strain, and our minds to believe that the sun is up when it is really not.
Such are the benefits of today’s “modern conveniences” brought to use by technology. But while there are surely a number of improvements given to use by technology, especially in terms of productivity, there are also loads of drawbacks to our physical health.
When we are slouched over at our desk as we type away at our laptops or desktop computers, we can develop long-term posture problems. Over the years, these issues can dramatically worsen and eventually turn into major spinal issues such as scoliosis or lordosis. Taking a brief break from our screens can remind us of what it is like to respect our postures again.
One of the major postural effects that texting has on our bodies is the so-called “death by texting” effect. When we text, we often have our phones held out in front of us while our heads crane forward to see the screen. This is simply awful for our necks. For every inch that we lean our heads forward, our necks have to support an additional 10 pounds of downward force.
To protect our necks, it is important to remember to sit up straight and raise our phones as high as we can when we text. Since this might look silly to some, and it can also be uncomfortable, we can detox from this nasty habit simply by putting our phones down for a while.
One prominent drawback to having our phones on our person at all times is the so-called “Google effect”. The Google effect occurs when our smartphones allow us to simply use the Internet to “Google” search the answer to whatever question we might have. As a result, our working memory (the capacity to remember things) is greatly diminished.
Another negative effect of having a smartphone or computer constantly by our sides is that our mental health is jeopardized by their presence. Studies have proven that those who spend above-average amounts of time at a computer report higher levels of stress, depression, and fatigue through loss of sleep.
Even when your phone is not constantly nagging you with notifications, its mere presence can result in what science calls a “brain drain”. This is a phenomenon in which the availability of our phones causes our minds to become preoccupied with it subconsciously. In effect, this leaves fewer resources available (such as memory) for the brain to use on other tasks.
When you unplug from the digital world, you save big on your energy costs. In turn, your energy footprint is also reduced. Cutting back on energy consumption is a great way to help ensure environmental sustainability.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims that “neglected” electronic items such as phone chargers are often culprits in wasteful energy consumption. If you use your phone constantly, you will also need to service it by keeping a charger nearby. This uses up loads of energy that can be better spent elsewhere.
By literally unplugging your unnecessary devices from the wall you can drop your energy consumption drastically. This is great, because it means that you will be less tempted to use them during the National Day of Unplugging, and you will help alleviate your “carbon footprint”.
Digital items that passively consume energy, such as phone chargers, are known as “energy vampires”. And according to one report by Cornell University, they add about $150-250 to your energy bill every year. That means that saving the detoxing from electronics can help save the environment while you save on your bill too—not a bad deal, huh?
How to Get Involved
If getting involved in the National Day of Unplugging sounds like the right move for you, we encourage you to check out any local events being hosted near you. If not, then consider taking the time to host an event. This doesn’t require any major effort on your part, simply invite friends and family out with you on, say, a hiking trip or a day at the beach.
National Day of Unplugging Activity Ideas
There are countless possibilities when it comes to the National Day of Unplugging. Here is a quick list of some of our favorite “unplugged” activities to help pass the time.
- Visiting your local state park
- Reading a novel by the beach
- Going for a long-distance bike ride
- Visiting family and far-away relatives
- Writing letters to loved ones
- Doing garden/yard work
In the lead up to this year’s National Day of Unplugging, we suggest checking Facebook and other social networks for public events. After all, this day is about connecting with those around you, including those in your greater community. What better way to do this than to check out what events other people are hosting.
If you can’t find any National Day of Unplugging events being advertised online, we encourage making an event page yourself. This way, other people can be inspired to join you and take the pledge too. This is a great way to introduce your neighbors and community members to the benefits of unplugging.
Unplugging: In Conclusion
In this day and age, the act of unplugging is brave. It is socially isolating for some, and a major blow to productivity for many others. However, beyond this, there is an important silver lining. And that is that putting away our technology can make us healthier, happier, and more connected to ourselves, those we love, and the world around us.
We recommend taking the pledge this year. Sign up today at the official National Day of Unplugging website to commit to the cause. With such a long list of social, environmental, physical, and mental health benefits, what is there to lose?