Why Unplugging May Actually Be a Key to Reconnecting

The case for putting down the phone on March 6th and 7th.

Posted Mar 02, 2020

Cell phones, tablets, laptops, and other digital devices are more ubiquitous than ever. With Wi-Fi and cellular data coverage, it’s now harder to find places to be disconnected than it is to find places to stay connected.

Today, it seems almost like a foreign concept to be unplugged even for 24 hours. Texts, emails, and phone calls that aren’t immediately returned are interpreted as being ignored. But what are the implications of that constant feeling of connectedness that binds many of us for as much as 16 to 18 hours per day? Perhaps it requires unplugging to take a true assessment of how far-reaching this technology has become in dictating our lives.

Fortunately, those of us looking for an excuse to do so need to look no further than March 6-7. This is when participants in the National Day of Unplugging will power down their digital devices in a concerted effort to reconnect with themselves, family, friends, and their communities for 24 hours. Not to say that such an event must fall at a specific time for everyone, but unplugging today requires intentionality. According to research by Asurion, Americans today check their phone once every 10 minutes on average. Many times, we are completely oblivious to this behavior, and these habits are maintained subconsciously.

While the National Day of Unplugging was started with the Sabbath in mind for Jewish people to adapt their ancient ancestral ritual to the modern-day, the benefits would ring true for all religions, races, and creeds. As the founders of this movement note: “We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our devices.”

Here are some things to weigh in your mind to see if you should put down your devices on March 6-7.

What’s too much of a good thing?

Having a smartphone, if used properly, can enhance your work-life balance. For instance, when I have 20 minutes to kill between dropping my daughter off at school but before my exercise class, I’m able to reply to emails and handle basic tasks with my phone, which frees up 20 minutes at the end of my day to spend more time with family.

But, when evening comes, if I’m still on my phone, I’ve not only squandered the time I’ve gained, but I’ve also sent a message to my family that they’re only worth half of my attention, if that. Unplugging allows you to offer undivided attention and create genuine connections.

 Mircea Iancu/Pixabay
Source: Mircea Iancu/Pixabay

Do I control my phone or does my phone control me?

During this experiment, it might be enlightening for us to see just how integrated these devices have become in our lives. Am I allowed to listen to music on my phone while I exercise? Do I need to lock my phone in a drawer until the 24 hours has passed to reap the benefits?

In this case, it’s not so much about the physical act of disconnecting from all digital devices as it is the mindset of being willing to be a passive user instead of an active user. For many, being disconnected from family would be stressful if they happened to be out of contact in a real emergency. For me, keeping a phone in my pocket on vibrate should something unexpectedly come up does not undo the positives. Rather, it will be the intentionality of choosing to not check my social media and email during this unplugging.

How can I unplug in other ways?

For those of us with jobs who might discover 24 hours off the grid could produce plenty of additional free time in the unemployment office, rest assured that a one-day cleanse is not the only option. There’s nothing magical about doing this on March 6th. Besides, unplugging for 24 hours only to grow just as attached as ever misses the entire point.

Instead, use the National Day of Unplugging as a first step to establish healthier patterns throughout the year. Find smaller windows to unplug weekly and daily. You’ll no doubt find that the biggest perpetrators of constant connectedness are the habits we unknowingly developed in the first place.