National Unplugging Day wants you to embrace reality
As we continue to spend more and more time completely enthralled by our electronic devices on a daily basis, the annual "National Day of Unplugging" aims to get Americans to put their smartphones and tablets down, if only for a day.
The National Day of Unplugging begins tonight at sundown and will last until the sun sets of Saturday. The goal is to provide a brief glimpse into the sort of lifestyle "letting go" of your smartphone or tablet once in a while can afford. Proponents of the occasion want those who participate to get up, get outside and engage in "meatspace" for a change of pace that hearkens back to the days of yore where "memes" were more like inside jokes exchanged among friends while meeting in the flesh.
Organizers of the event want to share a few ideas for how to spend your time off the tech grid, and their handy suggestions are as follows:
1.) "Like" or "Upvote" a picture the old-fashioned way
Head to a local museum or art gallery to experience beauty and creative expression in-person. While the LSU Museum of Art may not meet your standards for sheer volume of cat pictures, the $5 dollar admission fee costs about as much as a high-end iOS or Android app and the memories created during your visit will be with you for much longer than you'll probably fiddle with Goat Simulator before deleting it (actually, Goat Simulator is a brilliant game, so why not invest in both?). See the work of talented artists in stunning real-life HD. You can even move your head close to the paintings and take in the texture and deft-skill with which the brush strokes were applied.WARNING: touching the images in order to pinch/zoom to gain a closer look at portions of the artwork does not work. Attempting to swipe the painting to the left or right to express your opinion on its quality may cause the frame to fly off the wall, setting off alarms and possibly resulting in your arrest.
2.) Buy some nice stationary and write a loved one a heartfelt piece of analog mail
Physical stores (i.e.: not Amazon) offer lovely stationary sets that you can use to lovingly handcraft letters to the friends and family that mean the most to you. While the aesthetics of your handwriting may have stopped developing in 5th grade when you took your first typing class, it's the thought that counts...even if the resulting scrawl looks like a ransom note or the ravings of a conspiracy theorist carved into a bedroom wall. Unplugging for even just 24 hours opens up multiple avenues for you to unlock your analog creativity and expression. The Keeping Room in Baton Rouge and Scriptura in New Orleans (my personal favorite) are excellent places to stock up on the supplies you'll need to communicate like a thoughtful Victorian scribe.
i've had some in-depth conversations with a human being literally on the other side of the planet via Skype, but often we overlook the chance to communicate verbally with those who are practically sitting right across from us. Use the digital downtime to engage your friends and co-workers in ways that texting "LOL. K." simply cannot. Pre-technology communication required more effort, but was arguably more meaningful in terms of social significance. Back then, you couldn't just click "block" or "swipe left" to avoid conversation. You had to engage that person and work out differences. Take the time the digital communication moratorium affords to learn more about the people around you, and you'll certainly reap the rewards of taking the time to make the effort to do it like our ancestors did.
5.) Practice your navigation (No. Not switching to a different app.)
It happened to me. I took a wrong turn on a return trip back to Baton Rouge from New Orleans and found myself hopelessly lost in a swamp with no street lights, no Walgreen's (or corresponding CVS directly across the street) and the battery on my iPhone had just gasped its last. Luckily, my "seasoned" father had provided me with a Louisiana atlas and, after some efforts at orientation, I old school navigated my way back to civilization. I'm even old enough to remember what life was like before ubiquitous GPS technology and I still hadn't touched a map in well over a decade and a half. Life skills like this can be a life saver when situations take a turn from bad to worse, and the feeling of accomplishment I gained as I used back roads Siri never would have recommended to drag myself back into the halogen overheads of Circle K just before the tank went to "E" as well worth busting out the atlas to survive. To make that particular experience even more harrowing, I was almost out of beef jerky even before I lost my way.
6.) Read a book (on paper)
I will not deny how much having a Kindle and companion Kindle app on my iPhone has changed my life for the better. No longer do I have to drag one of those silly, rolly wheel suitcases behind me, filled to the brim with hardcover novels and coffee table books, as the jocks from the newsroom lob various pieces of decayed food in my general direction while shouting "nerd!". Thousands of books now discretely fit into my pocket and nobody has to know about it but myself. Quite frankly, it is magical technology that changes the way I entertain myself and learn, but even with recent advances in display technology (see: Kindle Paperwhite), something about reading on an electronic display doesn't quite satisfy me the way reading a traditional, bound book does. There are issues with eye-strain, battery life and a few other technological constraints, but my biggest gripe is that I can't feel comfortable getting into the bath with a device costing several hundreds dollars that is just asking to be dunked beneath the component-frying liquid with one fateful slip of the hand. There's also the nostalgia and sensory. Analog books are just nice. They smell good. They look nice arrayed on a physical bookshelf. The feel of turning a page and smoothing ones hand over the roughness of quality paper are qualities of the books of our forefathers that cannot be replicated by even the most advanced e-reader devices.
The experience of unplugging for a day could vary from person to person (obviously). It's my personal opinion that more severe "withdrawals" may be an indicator that these devices have come to occupy such a dominant role in one's life that perhaps it is something that should be addressed with a therapist or close friend. Technology addiction is a very real condition. While China has been known to send kids to camps for "deprogramming internet addiction", the West might take a gentler approach to getting people more comfortable without the crutch of a digital device. Some resources for smartphone addiction can be found by clicking here.
You can learn more about National Unplugging Day at their website and even download a handy sign to show off what you plan to do with all of the leisure time you're snagged by choosing ditching Candy Crush Saga Legender Part 7 for a while, even if it's only a day.