The Addiction You Didn't Know You Had

Mar 06, 2024

The Global Day of Unplugging was March 1st. No devices, no screens from sundown on the 1st to sundown on the 2nd. What a great concept. This day is about letting go of texting, social media, T.V., email, online assignments, and every other part of life that exists online for a whole day. You might be asking, “Why would anyone do that? Our devices are so useful. Why would anyone spend a day without them?”

Well, the folks who proposed the idea might actually be on to something– something extremely valuable.

The National Day of Unplugging (NDU) was an initiative founded in 2009 by Reboot, a Jewish company founded on the slogan “Rebooting Jewish life”. Reboot describes the day of unplugging as “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.” (Reboot's article about NDU). Last year (2023), the campaign was expanded to include other countries in the pledge to take a break from the digital. It is now the Global Day of Unplugging. 

Tiffany Shlain, “Artist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, [and] founder of Webby Awards” ,  the author of the best-selling book 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week. Tiffany has been unplugging for one day every week since 2010, along with her husband, Ken Goldberg, and her two daughters. She refers to this day as Tech Shabbat. In the introduction to 24/6, Tiffany states,

“The fact that my family has practiced Tech Shabbat so long surprises people. Ken is a UC Berkeley Professor of robotics. I’ve spent my career exploring the online world, first by establishing the Webby Awards, then as a filmmaker examining how all this connectedness is changing our lives today and will continue to do so in the future. We’re both deeply involved with technology and constantly pushing on its edge.”.

Tech Shabbat has changed her life. She says that it slows down time and also gives her more of it. She has control over her devices instead of them controlling her. She connects with the present and doesn’t let notifications take her out of the moment. And each week, Tech Shabbat renews her appreciation for all that the internet offers.

I’ve been doing this myself and call it my digital sabbath as well. I spend many Sundays unplugged, and it has given me an entirely new level of appreciation for authentic human connection. Another amazing effect this detox provides me is a brain break from being in a constant state of alert. I am no longer beholden to the alarms, alerts, beeps, dings, and messages of my devices. Unplugging has removed the addictive dependence on my devices. I love the way my brain starts to think again rather than just being fed information. I find my mind thinking so much more deeply without distraction. I’m also drawn to my family and music more. I find it so much more enjoyable spending time together,  playing guitar, and singing without the thought in the back of my head to check my phone. 

This addiction to the digital world is very real and is most likely sapping joy from your life because you are not able to be present with a “Distraction Device” in the palm of your hand. Each ping from your phone, each new Instagram video you watch, and all of the apps and platforms all stimulate your brain and offer a sense of fleeting pleasure. That pleasure subsides almost immediately, and our desire for emotional fulfillment is left unsatisfied, so we keep doom-scrolling, we start another game of solitaire or candy crush, we move on to the next new thing the internet hands us searching for that hit of pleasure to fill the gaping emotional emptiness. The truth is that pleasure will never be satisfied. It will never fill that hole because pleasure is not what you lack. 

What you are lacking is joy. Joy is an authentic, fulfilling happiness that comes from being connected to the present. Joy comes from true connection to self, others, God, and the truth. It means spending quality time with loved ones, with yourself, and with the real world around you. Joy is fostered by a sense of belonging and contribution to a community. 

To take back your hold on the present, and break the digital addiction’s hold on you, schedule weekly breaks from your devices. Mine is Sunday yours can be any day. Your digital detox doesn’t have to be an entire day if that’s not practical for you, but strive for a good chunk of one day every week to unplug. I suggest a minimum of four hours.

Here are some ideas to use during the detox time to truly connect yourself back to the present moment:

  • Go for a walk in a park.
  • Visit a friend.
  • Journal about your thoughts, feelings, life events, and goals.
  • Do something creative: draw, paint, write a story… etc.
  • Read that book you’ve been meaning to crack open.
  • Clean or organize something.
  • Practice your instrument.
  • Play with your kids, or sit down and ask them about their lives.
  • Spend time planning the rest of your week.

The physical world is beautiful, don’t forget that you are a part of it.

In the words of Tiffany Shlain, “we’ve become ostriches, burying our heads in silicon sand.” 

Pick your head up, reconnect with the present, exhale the need for stimulation, and inhale joy. 

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