National Day Of Unplugging: Why We All Need To Pull The Plug

Written by Lois Niven

When I was a kid, I read that Larry Hagman, the Dallas actor, did not speak on Sundays. He would write a short note or two to his wife if necessary, but he spent one day every week taking a break from the dialogue of his acting career, which involved a lot of talking – running lines, talk show appearances, etc. At first I thought this behavior rather odd, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the late Mr. Hagman’s ability to recognize when he needed a timeout from what must have been a hectic, nonstop lifestyle.

Today, you don’t have to be a celebrity to get caught up in nonstop communication. Thanks to technology, just about everyone is on the 24/7 treadmill, plugged into at least a few devices and applications: television, Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, smartphones, and video games.

What started as convenient ways to keep in touch wherever we are has mushroomed into a gorilla who’s taken over at the helm. Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • You lose track of what you were going to say because you’re reading something on your computer while talking on the phone.
  • You and your friends can’t make it through lunch without someone answering her cell phone.
  • You’re more concerned with getting a signal to post a photo on Facebook than taking in the view at -- where are we again? Oh yeah, the Grand Canyon.
  • You feel the constant need to tweet what you just ate, bought, said, thought.
  • You just dropped off your kids at school and realized that you spent the whole drive talking to someone else on the phone.
  • You check for work emails right until bedtime just in case they need you.
  • The clock suddenly says 2:00 am, so maybe you’ll play just one more game of Grand Theft Auto IV.

I struggle with a few of these issues from time to time, as my husband will point out. For me it’s all about knowledge. I love learning and I want my questions answered now, so it’s not unusual for me to Google things in the middle of a conversation. I also follow a lot of interesting pages on Facebook and monitor them frequently -- heaven forbid I should miss a life-altering post. I’m also a bit of an efficiency expert, so I don’t just stand in line at the store, sit in a waiting room, or even walk from point A to point B without being tempted to check in. We’ve taken so easily to being plugged in that we don’t even stop to wonder if it’s serving us or ruling us. What’s going on in the real world around us while we constantly look to connect with one of these devices?

Electronic dialogue allows us to speak more, often to the world rather than with the people who are physically present. We also listen less. Moments of quiet and solitude are sought less often, in favor of connecting. This creates an inward-outward imbalance as we increase our communication transactions and lose the ability to just be. Simply deleting the Facebook app from my iPhone (yes, you can) has helped me tremendously.

If the next sentence sounds impossible, it’s a sign that this is something you should consider doing. The National Day of Unplugging -- from sunset Friday, March 1st to sunset Saturday, March 2nd -- is an opportunity for you to turn off all electronic communication gadgets, and instead connect with the people in your neighborhood, play a board game with your child, take a walk in nature, read a book (printed on paper), share a cup of tea with a friend. Or. Just. Do. Nothing (gasp).

Does this make your chest tighten? If so, join the movement, sign the pledge, and hit the “off” switch. The National Day of Unplugging can be eye-opening, and for many may signal the beginning of a shift back to being in the moment. If you don’t think you can make it through 24 hours, try 12. Try one. Start where you are and take whatever step you can. Your real life is waiting. Hang up the phone.

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