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Live-Blogging The National Day of Unplugging

24 hours of Internet abstinence, as documented via a pen and a stack of Post-it notes.

  • <p>National Day of Unplugging began on Friday at sundown. It is a pledge to go without the Internet for 24-hours.</p>
  • <p>"I forgot how bad my handwriting is." (In case you can't read that.)</p>
  • <p>"Usually listen to podcasts on the subway. Today I have Post-it notes."</p>
  • <p>"People on the subway seem to find Post-it notes suspicious."</p>
  • <p>"Wrote step-by-step directions to restaurant. Cannot see which street I'm on."</p>
  • <p>"Ask someone."</p>
  • <p>"Without my usual time-telling device, I have no idea whether I should be in a hurry."</p>
  • <p>"Ask a waiter when I arrive. I'm early."</p>
  • <p>"Indian food. No idea what the menu means. Missing Foursquare."</p>
  • <p>"Lost Post-it note with address for event."</p>
  • <p>"Momentary panic."</p>
  • <p>"Found it."</p>
  • <p>"Beyonce #shazam." (But, like, without Shazam.)</p>
  • <p>"New day, new pen!"</p>
  • <p>"No weather report."</p>
  • <p>"Guess that it is cold, wear a sweater."</p>
  • <p>"Don't have an address for my appointment."</p>
  • <p>"Know how to use maps, but keep them on Internet."</p>
  • <p>"Know how to use a landline, but don't have one."</p>
  • <p>"Ultimately ask fiancé to look it up for me."</p>
  • <p>"I realize this is cheating."</p>
  • <p>"Colors look brighter! The sun is warmer!"</p>
  • <p>"Well, not really. But I do think I'm becomming [sic] a better pedestrian." (One misses spellcheck at a time like this.)</p>
  • <p>"One hour (ish--I couldn't really look it up) until sundown. Must. Check. Email."</p>
  • <p>"Huzzah! Plugging back in."</p>
  • 01 /25

    National Day of Unplugging began on Friday at sundown. It is a pledge to go without the Internet for 24-hours.

  • 02 /25

    "I forgot how bad my handwriting is." (In case you can't read that.)

  • 03 /25

    "Usually listen to podcasts on the subway. Today I have Post-it notes."

  • 04 /25

    "People on the subway seem to find Post-it notes suspicious."

  • 05 /25

    "Wrote step-by-step directions to restaurant. Cannot see which street I'm on."

  • 06 /25

    "Ask someone."

  • 07 /25

    "Without my usual time-telling device, I have no idea whether I should be in a hurry."

  • 08 /25

    "Ask a waiter when I arrive. I'm early."

  • 09 /25

    "Indian food. No idea what the menu means. Missing Foursquare."

  • 10 /25

    "Lost Post-it note with address for event."

  • 11 /25

    "Momentary panic."

  • 12 /25

    "Found it."

  • 13 /25

    "Beyonce #shazam." (But, like, without Shazam.)

  • 14 /25

    "New day, new pen!"

  • 15 /25

    "No weather report."

  • 16 /25

    "Guess that it is cold, wear a sweater."

  • 17 /25

    "Don't have an address for my appointment."

  • 18 /25

    "Know how to use maps, but keep them on Internet."

  • 19 /25

    "Know how to use a landline, but don't have one."

  • 20 /25

    "Ultimately ask fiancé to look it up for me."

  • 21 /25

    "I realize this is cheating."

  • 22 /25

    "Colors look brighter! The sun is warmer!"

  • 23 /25

    "Well, not really. But I do think I'm becomming [sic] a better pedestrian." (One misses spellcheck at a time like this.)

  • 24 /25

    "One hour (ish--I couldn't really look it up) until sundown. Must. Check. Email."

  • 25 /25

    "Huzzah! Plugging back in."

On Friday at sundown, thousands powered down their computers and smartphones to begin a 24-hour digital fast in honor of National Day of Unplugging, a pseudo-holiday that encourages reconnecting with relaxation by disconnecting from the Internet.

The day is an outgrowth of 10 principles that a Jewish non-profit, Reboot, calls the Sabbath Manifesto. Its goal is to "slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world."

With evidence showing constant connectivity increases stress, disrupts sleep, and kills creativity, unplugging is a concept that’s hard to argue with. "I'm surprised by how enjoyable it is, how peaceful it is, how rejuvenated you feel," Davy Rothbart, a two-time participant of the pledge told USA Today before beginning his third day of pledged Internet abstinence. "It's weird how transformative it is."

I decided to give it a go, "live-blogging" my experience with a stack of Post-it notes and a pen.

At some point I realized that, without my nose buried in a maps app, I was becoming a better pedestrian, and I enjoyed the unfamiliar sensation of boredom while waiting for a friend at a restaurant Friday night. But waking with my own devices unplugged on Saturday, I had trouble feeling the peace Rothbart describes. I couldn't read the new book I was planning to download or take my usual online yoga class. And if I hadn’t sneaked through a loophole by asking my fiancé to look up an address on my behalf—I would have missed a date with my best friend.

Instead of feeling liberated to experience the real world when I shut down my digital connection, I felt inhibited. It wasn’t a nagging pressure to check my email, but rather a realization that I don’t own paper maps, don’t know telephone numbers by heart, and access even classic literature from a digital device.

On the National Day of Unplugging website, participants uploaded photos of themselves with signs that say "I unplug to ___." They've filled in the blank with responses such as "celebrate my birthday with my family," "live life fully," "opera," "get outside." It's difficult to do any of these with a phone glued to your jaw. But it's equally difficult without using the tools of our era to plan, navigate, and communicate. Shutting down the Internet felt a bit like refusing to use electricity—a frivolous rejection of a tool instead of serious consideration about how we use it.

[Image: Flickr user dmountain.com]

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