Unplugged from Technology
What Would It Be Like To Unplug?

Technology. Do you love it?  Hate it? Or have a love/hate relationship with it?  Has its promise of time-saving and efficiency become just another vehicle for distraction, stress, and poor health?

“Unplugging” from technology is a movement, actually a backlash, that’s been gaining momentum over the past half a dozen years. At the heart of the movement is getting back to a purer, more present, more engaging way of life. Think Thoreau. It’s intriguing, and especially interesting, that the core of this movement is in the San Francisco area – home to technology’s Silicon Valley.

Evidence that unplugging is a growing movement is apparent in the various ways this trend is being implemented:There’s the  National Day of Unplugging each March (this year its fifth year);  Detox Week in April, made visible by musician John Mayer; Digital Detox Vacation Resorts, the premier resort being Earthshine Mountain Lodge in  North Carolina; Technology Shabbats, weekly from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday (since 2008); Walden Zones, with designated tech-free zones in your home; and Give Up Your Smartphone, started by a restaurant worker, irked by people’s preoccupation for texting and tweeting during meals.

I was greatly intrigued with a professional San Francisco couple with two children. They decided that technology, instead of helping, distracts us from more meaningful interactions. They made the decision to unplug after their first child was born, wanting their children to have a tactile and immersive childhood.

Their unplugged lifestyle doesn’t include TV (except every two years for the Olympics), radio, cable modem, fax machine, video games, or paper shredder.

The kitchen is without a microwave, electronic coffee maker, ice maker, automated oven, digital clocks, electric can-opener, store-bought flour, prepared juice, or packaged foods.

Instead, they’ve gone extremely low-tech. They use a stovetop coffeemaker, hand crush ice, use analog clocks, make calls on a corded rotary dial phone (do you even remember those?), hand juice, and grind flour.

They have found simple pleasures in their low-tech life: friends lingering at dinner conversations without cell phone interruptions; reading a daily print newspaper; taking the kids hiking and biking; and baking their own bread. Other benefits are feeling more restored, present, refreshed, and sleeping better.

For another reason, some companies, including technology company Google, are insisting that their workers unplug for certain parts of the day.  They recognize that to innovate, employees need time to unplug.

This growing movement is important, not only for life engagement and innovation, but for our health. Author Kim John Payne says excessive connectedness is straining our bodies and our brains. Neurologically we can’t  be on high alert any more than 1/3 of our waking life. With the 10+ hours of high alert many people experience because of technology, we become adrenaline and cortisol junkies – both harmful to our health.

How does being unplugged for a day, a week, or for a longer period of time sound to you? Does it feel scary? Refreshing? Both?

I know I’m strongly tied to technology and do feel its weight. I don’t plan to go without it completely, but more and more I’m looking for ways to lessen its impact. On my vacation later this year, I’ll do what I’ve sometimes done in the past – go mostly sans technology. After all, I do want to take my camera and get some great pictures, which will only be seen by others after I return home.


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