Today is the National Day of Unplugging, when people across the country are encouraged to take a 24-hour digital detox from all technology. It’s a harmless and totally made-up holiday designed to boost your mental health — but it’s also not a holiday that everyone can partake in. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that it takes privilege to fully disconnect for 24 hours. Since most of us rely heavily on technology for our work and social lives, the cost of unplugging for a day is increasingly something that the average Joe can’t afford.
For those who rely on technology and staying connected to do their jobs, do their schoolwork, keep in touch with family, or to keep on top of pressing issues in the world, it’s almost impossible to take a “day off.”
In a time when being too connected is seen as a bad thing, many people rely on our readily available connection to technology to make money. Not all of us can drop what we are doing for an entire day to unplug ourselves from what needs to be done. “Unplugging” from those responsibilities — skipping a shift as a freelancer or missing a family phone call — for any length of time is not always a viable option.
Only a small subset of the population can actually afford to take an extended break and shut off their digital lives for an entire day. Whereas technology was once only available to the privileged few, those with privilege are now the ones with enough wealth, freedom, and social support to forgo technology altogether.
For example, people are now paying money — in some cases, lots of money — to go on digital detox retreats where they don’t use electronics for a given period of time. Some luxury resorts even ban smartphone use to encourage their guests to live life in the present moment. But of course, if you can afford hot stone massages and private villas, you can also probably afford to ignore your email for a day. Not everyone has that luxury.
There are still ways you can incorporate small moments of limited screen time even if you can’t fully unplug. It could be as simple as not logging into one of your social media accounts all day or taking a quick lunch break outside instead of eating at your desk answering emails.
Experts, in general, say that a digital detox or a day off isn’t necessarily the right way to approach our reliance on technology. Rather, creating a better relationship with technology makes more sense.
“If you’re going to cut yourself off and do a detox, you’re literally cutting yourself off from the thing that makes us human beings,” said Larry Rosen, professor emeritus and past chair of the psychology department at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
For those who can’t afford to unplug for an entire day, Rosen said that small changes like no screen time an hour before bed or turning on “Do Not Disturb” for half an hour a day can improve your digital well-being without taking you off the digital grid.
For the privileged few, today could offer a day free from notifications and likes, but for most of us, it’ll just be like any other day of having too many tabs open on our browser.
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