How To Broadcast Your Plan to #Unplug

When you’re ready for your digital detox, here’s how to send friends and colleagues “smoke signals” letting them know that you’re taking a break from connected life. And that you haven’t died.

How To Broadcast Your Plan to #Unplug

For his 25-day digital detox, Baratunde Thurston went to great lengths to alert his friends and colleagues he’d be going offline. This was, he discovered, harder than it sounds, particularly when it comes to social media connections.


“As much as we all gripe about email, it is designed to be turned off. Email comes with the vacation-message feature that alerts senders to the fact that we are not available. . . . Social media services, however, are not interested in making absence easy.”

So, after making a series of loud social media announcements about his upcoming departure from the digital world, Thurston changed his profile photos to read “OFFLINE THROUGH JAN 7, 2013. EXPECT NO REPLIES.” “In an era of high-definition, handheld, multiparty, and free wireless video chat, my best option was essentially a smoke signal,” he writes.

Here are some other tips from Thurston about how to let people know you’ll be unreachable:

Schedule your unplug time: “Figure out when you can take a real break. If you want a true digital detox, two weeks is far better than one,” Thurston says. If you can’t take two weeks away, try unplugging for the weekend or even once a week. Here are a few other options.

Tell your colleagues: “A month before you leave, make sure that your key coworkers know that you’ll be truly unavailable. This gives you time to work out any real problems your absence may create.”

Tell everyone else: “A week before d-day, send an email to a list of those who communicate with you on anything more than an occasional basis, alerting them to your departure. Make it clear to them that this is serious—no one will believe you’re really capable of ditching the digital life.”

Warn everyone–AGAIN: “The morning of d-day, send an email to that list again. Make it emphatic: Mine began, ‘I Have Left the Internet.’ If they don’t understand that you’re for real now, they can’t be helped. They have, after all, been warned.”


Set your away message for email: “Your note should be courteous but firm: You will return no emails (though you may choose to leave emergency contact info).”

Manage social networks: “You can’t really turn off Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and so on. So use your home page to establish your absence. Take a photo of a stark message like: I Won’t Be Here Until [date of your return]. Use that as your profile photo.”

Establish emergency exceptions: “There must be some way for people to reach you. Set up a clear system with someone you trust, who can have access to your email and social media.”

Take a deep breath: “Vacate. Completely. It’ll be scary for a day or two. And then it will be great.”

Some other recommendations from our readers on how to alert your friends that you’re unplugging:

“I’m not dead, I’m just tired of tweeting.”–@KarlPawlewicz


” ‘My phone’s dead. I don’t have a charger.’ I take an accidental afternoon-long hiatus and try to stay mentally present.” —@ReginaFlanigan

“By faking your death.”–@DavidAndGoliath

“Those who get it will give you your time, and those who don’t get it will never notice.”–Saurabh Chandrashekhar

Got any advice on how to #unplug? Tell us here, or tweet your thoughts to @FastCompany using the #unplug hashtag.

About the author

Jessica Hullinger is a London-based journalist who covers science, health, and innovation. She currently serves as a Senior Editor at