Turn Off, Tune Out: The National Day of Unplugging Is Upon Us



Twenty-four hours without your smartphone or tablet? Cue Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking Psycho violins for the next 1,440 minutes. Think you could do it? The folks behind the National Day of Unplugging are hoping that, to paraphrase Tim Leary, you can “turn off, tune out and drop by (and see someone).”

The party kicks off tonight at sunset, March 1, and rolls through sunset tomorrow, March 2 (or as the site describes it, “sundown to sundown”). During those ostensibly blissful hours of cyber-abstinence, you’re encouraged to “start living a different life: connect with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child.”

Hey man, everyone’s doing it! Even Arianna Huffington (no really — she’s a few rows down in the site’s promotional picture collage). But okay, what’s this all about really? A bunch of wacky luddites on their anti-technology high horses?

Not exactly, though there is a slight religious angle. This “unplug challenge” launched back in 2010 as a riff on the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat — the Jewish day of rest, which starts Friday evening and runs through Saturday night. If you attended a parochial elementary school (as I did, though I’m not the least bit religious) and at one point had to read the Old Testament book of Exodus, you may recall the line ”Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest.” The event’s nonprofit sponsor group, Reboot, took that and spun it into more of a tech-angled holiday — as they put it, “an adaption of our ancestors’ ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.”

There’s something alluring about unplugging for a day or two when your life looks more and more like a Sharper Image ad. In my house we have three laptops, a desktop PC and flatscreen, two smartphones, one tablet, multiple game consoles and handhelds, a wireless printer, a computer-connected hybrid digital piano, another computer-connected vintage keyboard, an Internet-connected baby-cam, an Internet-connected television and cable box, and dozens of other little USB or wireless gizmos that interlink with our cyber-ecosystem. Even my seven-month-old’s toys are in on the action: Someone recently gifted us a green plush-toy dog named “Scout.” Except Scout isn’t your garden variety stuffed puppy: He comes with a giant “hump” on his back, which upon closer analysis turns out to be a USB connection pack that’ll let you plug in and download songs for Scout to sing, customize playlists — even program him to speak our child’s name. It’s pretty cool…and a little terrifying.

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source: TIME Tech / Matt Peckham

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