Turn off and chill out. That could be the slogan of a growing movement to temporarily forget about technological progress and move backward, centered around a new holiday. From sunset Friday, March 1 to sunset Saturday, March 2, hordes of wired Americans will voluntarily disconnect themselves as part of the National Day of Unplugging.
This is the fourth year in which observers will detach themselves from the virtual tethers that keep us plugged in -- email, IMs, texts, the Web, and whatever else you consider to be tugging at your attention all day like an annoying dog.
The organization behind this march-backward-to-serenity effort is the national non-profit organization Reboot, and its inspiration is that most untechnological of publications -- The Old Testament. The group said the day is an offshoot of its Sabbath Manifesto, "an adaptation of our ancestors' ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones."
Based in New York and founded in 2002, Reboot is a Jewish organization focused on engaging what its Web site calls "young cultural creative, innovators and thought-leaders" to generate projects that impact the world.
Last year for the National Day of Unplugging, the group ironically released a mobile app to help observers move away from apps and other technology. Called the Sabbath Manifesto app, it allowed users to send an automatic message through Twitter or Facebook to notify friends that they've checked out, technologically speaking. It also allowed the user to sign up for text messages that remind him or her to disregard text messages, among other tech, for a day.
A spokesperson for Reboot, Tanya Shevitz, recognized last year the irony of an app to schedule a no-app respite. "We fully get the irony," she told the New York Times. "But really, what better way to tell your followers that you won't be tweeting on the weekend?"
The organization has also been known to hand out small bags with the Sabbath Manifesto logo, saying they were "sleeping bags" so that smartphones could get a day's nap.
Reboot has said that millions of Americans have taken up the call in previous years, and adds that the day is not intended as an anti-technology statement. Instead, Shevitz has told news media, the National Day is a way to recapture the "real interconnections between people" and to take a break from the "relentless deluge of information."
Between 'Isolated' and 'Overwhelmed'
At the NationalDayofUnplugging.com Web site, unpluggers who signed the unplug Pledge can post photos showing signs with a few words about what they will be unplugging to do.
Edward in London, for instance, will "face reality." Jamie in New York City will "get outside," and Katie in Seattle will "be more than another face online." Reboot's suggestions also include nurturing health, getting outside, avoiding commerce, lighting candles, finding silence, and giving back.
Brad Shimmin, a plugged-in analyst with Current Analysis, said that he "understands the concept" of making more of an effort to be "a human being living in the physical world," although he will remain wired for the National Day.
Shimmin noted that he does semi-unplug on formal vacations, although he has been known to "check email twice a day" during those purported escapes from work, and he regularly does dial down his connectedness on weekends and evenings. In short, he said, the ideal is to achieve a balance somewhere between "feeling isolated and feeling overwhelmed."
How about you? Will you disconnect for the 'National Day of Unplugging'?