What Can We Learn from the National Day of Unplugging?

I was very interested when I heard about the National Day of Unplugging (sunset February 28  to sunset March 1).  Since conquering cyberoverload is all about becoming the master and not the slave of our gadgets, I thought I should give it a try. But it wasn’t the easiest day for me to try to unplug. It was more like a day when I realized how essential our devices can be.

My husband and I were driving on March 1st from Sarasota to St. Simons, Georgia, and we had recently discovered that the Google Maps app on my iPhone was a much more reliable way to navigate than our in-car GPS.  So I made an exception to my unplugging plans for navigating.  I also made an exception for my “Rest Stops Plus” app, so we could find a good place to stop along the way.

The iPhone turned out to be an even more important because after arriving and checking into our condo in Georgia, we had planned to drive back to the Jacksonville airport to pick up our son, who was flying in from Madison. Of course, when he texted to tell us that his flight out of Madison was delayed and that he might miss the connecting flight, we were relieved to be able to keep up to date with his travel adventure via texting and airline apps.  He ended up being re-routed and switched to another airline, and arrived two hours later than originally scheduled.  Imagine this same scenario before smart phones—or worse, before cell phones! We certainly saved a great deal of time and were spared a great deal more stress.

So we made those exceptions, but I must admit it was a great challenge to use my iPhone only for those necessary purposes and leave the other apps alone. I didn’t NEED to play Words with Friends, but I was so tempted.  I didn’t NEED to know the latest national news, but I kept thinking about it. And I didn’t NEED  to check my email, but even though I had all my alerts turned off,  it kept silently calling out to me.  It was a Saturday after all, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t receive a business-related message that needed to be answered right away. And yet . . .

In the end, I didn’t completely disconnect, but I cut way back on unnecessary connections. The whole day reminded me how alluring and tempting connectedness is.  If I had chosen another day, say a weekday, to be unplugged, I would certainly have found other compelling reasons to stay connected.

So I’m concluding that giving up connectedness for a whole day is quite unrealistic for most people.  I think it may serve as a good exercise to identify how often the urge to connect is there, even when there’s no real need to use our devices.

Our gadgets often interfere with our lives:

    • They disrupt face-to-face conversations
    • Their interruptions reduce our productivity
    • They overload us with information, which often reduces creativity
    • They stress us out

The solution is to learn how to moderate our connectedness:  Finding times to connect and times to focus fully on what we’re doing in the here and now.

Here are some tips for moderating our connectedness:

  • Don’t let your gadgets interfere with conversations—unless you know there’s an emergency
  • When you’re trying to focus, turn off your alerts and check messages during a natural break in your work
  • Surf for respected sources of information, rather than collecting everything that’s out there
  • Take breaks from connection several times a day to promote both calm and creativity

Managing our connectedness takes practice and discipline, but it’s worth the results.  Try it in small doses at first.  You’ll see what I mean.

And let me know what you think.


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