A day of digital silence

By Alexandra Golaszewska

This year, I observed the National Day of Unplugging. It's a secular event with its roots in the religious tradition of a day of rest. In our hyper-connected world, we get so anxious when we forget our phones or temporarily lose Internet access; we feel like we need to be on and available 24 hours every day. A day of unplugging by choice can give us space to think and relax and get outside without constantly checking a device.

"Unplugging" is open to interpretation. The organizers created a 10-point manifesto, but this doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. For some, it might mean that the phone is OK but internet is not. For others, it might mean not using anything powered by electricity.

I chose to get rid of phone and internet. On the designated Friday night, I shut off my phone and put my iPad into airplane mode. I allowed myself books on the iPad, but nothing else.

Overall, it felt really good. An unplugged day made me realize how much time I usually spend online reading and researching and checking messages and tweeting. I had space, in a way that I don't on a normal day. I felt relaxed… mostly. I did have a few moments of panic that there was some emergency happening and I didn't know about it. There were a couple of minor inconveniences: I was running late on my way to meet some people on Friday night, and a friend was a little late meeting me for a hike on Saturday morning, and I couldn't use my phone. Neither was a big deal. I was meeting 3 people at a bar on Friday night, so it wasn't like someone was waiting for me to order dinner. On Saturday, I was in a beautiful park and my dog and I just enjoyed our surroundings until my friend arrived.

Some positive effects that happened in a big way in the days that followed:

  • Increased productivity. Forcing a break from unnecessary internet use made me a lot more particular about how I spend my time online.
  • Decreased tolerance to email clutter. When email is allowed to pile up, you really notice how much you get that you don't need. I've since done a lot of unsubscribing.
  • More ideas. Better ideas. If you're into meditation, you know that quieting your mind makes space for new things to come in. Unplugging does this too.

Some tips, if you want to give it a try:

  • Tell a few people what you're doing. You don't have to announce it to everyone you know, but just make sure that a few friends or family members know. That way, if there really is an emergency, they know that they need to find you in person or contact a neighbor. It's easier to relax if you know that someone will track you down if necessary.
  • Make your plans ahead of time. A solitary day of unplugging spent at home could be really therapeutic, but that isn't what I was looking for this time. I made my plans with friends ahead of time, and they knew that I wasn't available to change them by phone. No problem.
  • Enjoy it.

I don't think I'm ready to do this every week. Maybe someday. For now, I'm going to try making this a monthly practice on the first Friday sundown to Saturday sundown of every month.

One of the ideas that came out of this: an expansion of my marketing skills to the realm of online dating. I've spent years helping clients look their best online in the business world, and I've also helped friends fix up their online dating profiles (one met her husband after I worked my magic). I've combined the two into a new service at ProfileCoach.net.