U.S. News

03.01.13

Seven Things to Do on National Day of Unplugging

From sunset March 1 to sunset March 2 has been declared National Day of Unplugging, when we are urged to untether ourselves from smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets. From going outside to making some alone time to reading a book, here are alternatives to engaging with technology.

In an attempt to get people to engage less with technology and more with people, Reboot, a nonprofit organization, has declared March 1 to March 2 National Day of Unplugging. For the fourth year running, you can take a pledge to avoid technology for 24 hours—from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Worried you won’t know what to do without your smartphone, iPad, laptop, TV, etc.? Not to fear. We asked some leading people in technology what they do to disconnect.

Exercise

One obvious (and healthy) way to unplug is to go exercise—ideally doing something that requires you use both hands. Tom Preston-Werner, founder and CEO of Github, goes rock climbing at an indoor gym. “I don’t have my phone or any other gadgets on me when I do this,” Preston-Werner told The Daily Beast in an email. “I find that it’s an excellent way to focus completely on the non-tech task at hand (not falling off the wall) which is a great way to unplug.”

Tim Pool, a journalist who covered Occupy Wall Street prolifically, also makes sure to hit the gym more than once a week. “I take time to stay in shape and have fun bouncing around doing flips and such,” Pool said via email. “This is the only time I’m out of reach. Every so often you have to get away and have fun.”

Read a Book

Yes, paper provides an excellent reading surface. “I typically unplug by reading a book (yes, the dead-tree-variety—I’m a publisher after all!), and make an effort to do so every day for at least 30 minutes,” says Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Of course you’ll have to decide for yourself if your basic e-reader violates the pledge.

Get Outside

Sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air. Find a new park, running trail, or walking route. As Preston-Werner adds, “I find that getting out into nature is the most efficient way to reset to a clean mental state and get prepared to attack the coming week with gusto!” Even in New York City, the outdoors can offer alternatives to the World Wide Web. “Living in a city like New York makes it easy to go outside and find distractions,” adds Ohanian, “which is a big reason why I recommend people live here.”

Take an Email Sabbatical

Don’t forget to really unplug when you go on vacation. The key to a truly disconnected holiday is to take an email sabbatical, says Danah Boyd, senior researcher at Microsoft. Boyd argues that while there are plenty of aspects of the Internet you can afford to ignore for a week or two, email is “designed to put you on a hamster wheel, rarely ever succeeding at letting you reach empty. You feel accomplished when you get to inbox zero. And then you sleep, and it’s all back to haunt you.”

Purposefully Limit Access to Wi-Fi by Traveling

But other times you may need to make it actually impossible to get online. “I never unplug,” says Edith Zimmerman, editor of The Hairpin. “The closest I come is taking trains to Boston, I guess, and not using the Wi-Fi hotspot Internet (but still using my phone).” Most buses, planes, and cabins in the woods work as well.

Make Some Alone Time

Andrew Sullivan, editor of The Dish, tries to take one day per week away from his site and at one point would get offline at 1 p.m. every day. His advice for those attempting a full day away from cords: meditate, masturbate, pray, get a great latte, and “if you’re in one of the free states, get stoned.”

Cats

And if worse comes to worst, you can get yourself a cat, as Ohanian suggests. “I can also always count on my cat to provide me with a much-needed distraction,” says the man whose website has a subsection dedicated to felines. After all, what’s the Internet if not a collection of distracting cats?