I keep a blog planner inside my regular datebook, and I keep a list of yearly happenings in my Evernote app on my Kindle; everything’s on my Kindle. Apparently, this date (for the day of unplugging) was wrong (right weekend though), but I’m going forward because the other option is skipping it, and I’ve decided that moving forward is the better choice. It’s not exactly a resolution, but it’s…something.
This weekend was/is National Day of Unplugging, running from sundown Friday evening until sundown Saturday. Take an hour or two or the whole twenty-four, unplug and get away from technology. (And to be honest, you could pick a random day on the calendar and follow through with unplugging, but they have a website.)
If this is something you think will work for you, do it.
A couple of years ago, I unplugged our family at the dinner table. It’s not always feasible; we sometimes (maybe more than sometimes) eat in front of the television, I instagram my food, and on holidays, I photograph the family with my cell phone. We still continue to abolish the phones at the table, although I don’t criticize my son’s girlfriend even though I’ll give my son a pointed look when he takes out his own phone. And to give her credit, she’s not the first one to take out her phone.
I’ve been thinking about this day all week, and I realized that despite this sounding like a good idea, it’s hard to disconnect and I don’t even mean the addictive nature of screens.
I am definitely well aware of the addiction. There was a time that I checked my phone every five minutes for messages and all through the night for FOMO (fear of missing out for those of you not fluent in text). I think I’m much better than I’ve been in the past. (I know I am.) I will actually leave my phone in another room and I silence it about 90% of the time in meetings or with people unless I’m expecting a message from my kids.
However, I think technology and screens have really been a benefit for many of us.
We have the opportunity to meet like-minded people who have our same interests and our medical problems. We can talk and share and learn. If I’m stumped on something, I’ve been known to go to Twitter or Facebook and ask. People on the internet are very helpful (most of them and most of the time).
For those of us with mobility issues, we have an easy link to the library or the doctor (through telemedicine). Our prescriptions can be automatically filled and delivered.
When I was growing up, we visited both sets of grandparents every weekend – Saturday for one set and Sunday for the other. I would go with my cousins to their side of the family who I wasn’t related to but none of that mattered. We were part of the same family through my cousins and everyone was within an easy drive to spend lunch or the afternoon, watching home movies or running around front lawns.
And with the ongoing pandemic and the lockdowns sporadically repeating throughout the year, screens have kept us going; through work, play, and family get togethers. Where would we have been the last two years without Zoom or Google Meets? Remote learning for schools, work from home for parents, televisits for doctors all happening because of our screens.
While it is an understatement to say that Facebook has its problems, I get to see my cousin’s kids growing up. I’ve never met the kids except when two were babies, and it is so wonderful to see their soccer games and hockey tournaments and beach trips. And their smiles. Through her mom’s Facebook I see my uncle and aunt who I haven’t seen since well before the pandemic and it’s a treat.
I’ve been able to attend church services through livestreaming when I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go in person. I’ll be attending this morning as well. I’ve attended online retreats and classes, lectures in other states without having to leave my house. What a great thing, especially in the winter!
Ninety-nine percent of the books I read are on my Kindle. I haven’t taken a physical library book out in five years – they’re all borrowed on my Kindle. I am almost constantly reading and without my screen I wouldn’t have that.
I watch Chef Jose Andres while I make his Angel hair pasta. It’s not like he’ll make a house visit to teach me these professional techniques.
We’re able to see what’s happening on the ground, in real time in Ukraine and we are able to counter Russia’s lies. In real time. We can support when they’re alone in their homes, scared and defiant. In real time. We can see their bravery and resilience and get inspiration from the Ukrainian people. In real time.
I do unplug on Yom Kippur. I still read on my Kindle, but I turn off the internet and stay away from Twitter and Facebook and email. I will text in an emergency.
What I’m saying is: if you want to unplug, Unplug.
If you want to take a break, decide how long, and Unplug.
But I’m also saying being plugged in isn’t the boogeyman. For many people it’s a savior and unplugging is a privilege that they don’t have.
It’s important to remember the benefits we get from being connected as much as we enumerate the stuff we perceive as bad.