Internet, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach. Or something like that. There are so many wonderful things to read out there and interact with, let alone the joy of my own inbox. Oooh, lets see what messages are in there — like wrapped presents under a Christmas tree — waiting for me to open them! While once you had to sit down at a computer to experience the Internet’s wonders, now it comes with you, in a nice little touch screen device that sits in your pocket.
Of course, with such ubiquity, inevitably people start to notice that we’re spending a lot of time plugged in. Some people think that is a problem. And so, in the way our news culture works, we need a hook to discuss the issue, and we wind up with the National Day of Unplugging, which starts tomorrow night (Friday, March 1) at sundown. That this lines up nicely with the actual observed Jewish Sabbath is no coincidence. NDU is championed by Reboot, an organization focused on helping young “cultural creatives” navigating their Jewish identity in the modern world. One way to navigate that identity? Observe the day of rest God told you to observe.
I do love the idea of a tech Sabbath — though I can’t help finding the fact that I’m looking at the NDU gallery of people holding signs saying “I unplug to ___” (read, pray, connect with loved ones) online kind of funny. As with many things in life, being plugged in is neither good nor bad. It’s just kind of inevitable.
What’s perhaps more funny is that so many of us think we’re making a big statement by unplugging for a bit. Pulling out the iPhone isn’t just about the dopamine hit of seeing unread messages in the inbox. It’s also about satisfying the human desire to feel needed. About two years ago, I wrote a short piece on not checking email for 5 days. My tech vacation was unintentional — I’d thought my phone would work somewhere that it didn’t — and so there had been no heads-up notes to people that I’d be gone, and no Out-Of-Office auto-replies. There was just silence on my end.
So what happened? In short, not much. I had to apologize to one person afterwards who needed something. I missed out on one or two opportunities that, in a perfect world, I would have taken. But our planet kept spinning merrily in its orbit without my constant input which, if you think about it, is not that surprising. I am just not that important.
Neither are most other folks. Which is why I was amused to see some comments on that piece with people claiming they just couldn’t unplug for 5 days. Maybe. Perhaps there would be unpleasant personal consequences. But let’s not fool ourselves that the rest of the universe would be affected all that much. After all, we will all shuffle off this mortal coil some day, and the rest of humanity will continue to cope.
Unplugging is about getting over ourselves. These days I’m attempting to keep the phone off from late afternoon Saturday to mid-day Sunday. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes my husband and I are off doing separate errands and need to coordinate, but we often have finished those by late Saturday afternoon. Sometimes I find a little voice in my head trying to convince me that I just need to turn on the phone to check the weather, but the truth is that I can also stick my head outside. Yep, it feels like I need a jacket, just like I would have figured out from the phone.
Do you unplug regularly?
Photo courtesy flickr user functoruser