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Disconnecting for 24 hours: My National Day of Unplugging


As we told you last week, National  Unplugging Day is an opportunity to disconnect from the digital world around us, a temporary vacation from technology. And at 24 hours of electronic abstinence, it didn’t sound terribly difficult – so I gave it a shot.

Just for a little background, I’d describe myself as an overly-connected person. I tend to digitally multitask between laptop, TV, and iPhone screen, and I’m unfortunately one of those people who prefer constant background noise to silence. My gadget repertoire has grown considerably in the last few years, and I went into the digital dryspell knowing how unpleasant it was going to be. Fortunately for me, the holiday’s founders provided the Ten Principles to keep me from straying to the electronic side.

Avoid technology

Before beginning my fast, I made sure to look up exactly what time sunset was at on Friday. Since it was at 6:44 pm, I realized I would be able to read my Kindle at the gym for at least most of my workout.

After that, however, I had to move to an area where there were no TVs and made sure to secure my powered-down phone and Kindle away from reach. It was pretty depressing, however, that the last TV show I was able to watch was a Piers Morgan interview with Charlie Sheen.

At home, I made sure to unplug my own TV set and conceal my Xbox, laptop, phone, digital cameras, and Kindle from sight. I experienced momentary panic when I thought I’d failed to update my NBA Fantasy team roster. (Don’t worry – I had, and I won my week’s matchup. Crisis averted).

Connect with loved ones

I made sure to schedule some family time this weekend to keep me entertained. Seem like an easy solution? It isn’t. I realized I’m completely dependent on at least four phone and text exchanges to ascertain what time and where I’m meeting anyone. Does asking a third party to phone my parents and ask when to expect them count as breaking the fast? If so…then I did.

And in lieu of being tempted to turn on the TV or see a movie on Friday night, I went mini-golfing. The place was crawling with trendy high schoolers, but there wasn’t a screen in sight – a good safe zone.

Nurture your health

This was easy. I took at least twice as long to prepare my meals and went grocery shopping just for the hell of it. I also went running without listening to music on my iPhone, which made it abundantly easier to not almost get hit by cars in my neighborhood.

Get outside

Seeing as we’re averaging buckets of rainfall in Portland, Oregon, this didn’t improve considerably. Still, I did walk more just to kill time. I also drove a considerable amount. However, seeing as my mode of transportation is a ‘93 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight, it’s only a few notches up from a horse and carriage. And hey, it doesn’t have a CD player and I turned the radio off during my driving time.

Avoid commerce

Nope. This I specifically did not do. Instead, I wandered around downtown with my family and went out to dinner on Saturday.

Light candles

Also skipped this one. I was separating myself from screen time, not holding some Ouija-board party. Pass.

Drink wine

Don’t have to tell me twice. After about 20 minutes at home on Friday and three hours into the experiment, I poured my first glass. After about three hours and 15 minutes into the experiment, I poured my second. And so on.

Eat bread

I substituted wine for the bread.

Find silence

This was inarguably the most difficult as well as most valuable part of the entire thing. I hate silence, which is a horrible quality and indicative of just how entirely my brain’s been saturated by technology. I’m used to operating multiple gadgets at once, consuming and putting forth as much data as I seemingly can. Which is exhausting – something I didn’t fully realize until doing without. Going to bed without checking my e-mail and watching TV was far more relaxing (which can also be attributed to the wine). Reading a hardcover edition of The Onion at my kitchen table during dinner to nothing but the sounds of silence was a welcome change from my typical meal habit of sitting at the desk and franticly perusing Web publications of choice.

Give back

I did complete the most unselfish of all the principles, although inadvertently. My neighbor was collecting clothes for a refugee family. Had I not been participating in National Unplugging Day, I would have kept my plans to see a movie Friday night and missed her. But, seeing as I happened to have a dearth of free time during those 24 hours, I was able to scrounge together some Goodwill-bound clothing.

Wrapping up

Unplugging for a day wasn’t as difficult or painful as I thought it would be, even with temptation lurking at every turn. At the same time, I was ready at sundown on Saturday night to immediately turn my phone back on. But the volume of missed calls, texts, and e-mails were almost enough to make me turn it back off.

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