In the FX hit series Better Things, chronically angst-ridden teenager Max Fox freaks out to her mother, Sam, when there’s a power outage and she realizes she has no phone service. “Mooommmmmmm” she wails in an increasingly higher pitch that borders on a manic break as she escalates toward the in-her-head realization that the world is coming to an end and with that, everyone in it. A new trend, “unplugging” is on everyone’s lips these days, and it means not using technology, social media, or other forms being plugged in and turning instead to mindfulness and old-school, face-to-face relationships with other humans, not your Smartphone or computer. Here are some tips on how you can go unplugged.
If you’re constantly available to your employers via texting, email notifications and other apps, knock it off, sweetheart. It may seem as if you’re doing the techy, politically correct thing and making yourself available to every one of your psycho boss’ whims 24/7, but think about it: are you being paid for that time? There’s a limit to “other responsibilities as required” when your boss has one of his “brilliant” ideas at 2:00 a.m. That’s what a notepad is for. Turn off your phone at dinnertime and leave it off. Seriously, NOTHING is that important.
OMG WTF? No Facebook? No Instagram or Twitter? Hey, we get it. You’re on the minute you wake up and stay on all day, even at work. There are two ways to unplug: Cold turkey or reducing your time on these sites. If you’re on for 4 hours each day, try cutting that in half or checking in for 30 minutes in the morning and at night. You don’t need to spend all that time getting tethered to your friends’ political rants.
Go for an actual “Sabbath” of unplugging. In the Jewish faith, Sabbath or “Shabbat” is a day of rest or literally ceasing to work, where the faithful do not drive, use electricity or phones. It begins every week just before sundown on Friday and ends Saturday night. If you can’t unplug during the week because (1) you might get fired because you’re not available 24/7 (hey, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers didn’t create this-yeah, we’re pointing at you, Millennials, Gen Zers and beyond) or (2) you’re addicted to tech, then the whole Shabbat thing might work for you. And hey, maybe you could actually speak to your date over a nice dinner instead of constantly checking your phone. Just sayin’.
So unplugging is a trend that’s getting some serious traction. There’s even a group that’s planning a National Day of Unplugging on March 9-10, 2018 (check it out at www.nationaldayofunplugging.com). It’s described this way “The Sabbath Manifesto is a creative project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.” So what will you do with your unplugged time? There are a million options. Go for a swim. Read a book. Have a picnic. Bake cookies. Maybe Timothy Leary and the hippies got it right back in the ‘60s when they chanted “tune in, turn on, drop out.” In Leary’s own words: “Turn on: To go within. To activate your neural + genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Tune in: Interact harmoniously with the world around you. Radiate. Shine on. Externalizer, materialize, and express your new internal perspective. Drop out: Suggests an active, selective, graceful, process of detachment. Detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. Drop out meant self reliance. A discovery of ones own singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. You must continually repeat this process to live a life of growth.” The bottom line is this: You may think being plugged in is living. It’s not. The energy you spend keeping up with social media, apps, your boss and friends is locked up in your car, your office or your living room. All the people who’ve made a difference in this world were focused on that one goal or achievement in front of them. And from that, we got the light bulb, the cotton gin, the Declaration of Independence, and Beethoven’s Ninth symphony. None of those greats had Facebook, Twitter or even phones. Imagine what you can create once you go unplugged. You’ll only find out by trying.