August 6 is #GlobalDayofUnplugging. You can take the pledge to unplug from your devices and plug into life here.
If over half a decade of unplugging has taught me anything, it is that unplugging is the easiest part of, well, unplugging. Just walk away from the screen. Through years of trial and terror, err, error, I have learned a few lessons on how to spend a day offline. First thing first: Out of sight, out of mind. I recently unplugged for a day and while it is very nice to unplug as part of a collective effort to disassociate, oops, disconnect from the digital noise, you can unplug for a 24-hour period, or longer, or shorter, any time of the week, day, month.
Start with turning off all your devices and put them away, deep in your closet, packed away in a box, or my all time favourite, put it in a plastic bag and wrap it with an ungodly amount of tape. Trust me, the shame you feel every time you consider un-taping that monster will invoke enough self-disgust at your own weakness- one for needing to go to such lengths to unplug and two to still feel the need to plug back into these tech pacifiers- that you simply won’t even bother. Which leads me to the second, and this is the most important, part: Get a life, or in a more gentle terms, make a list of things you can do offline for a 24-hour period. If you spend most of your day online and do very little things offline, this is going to hurt, mostly psychologically but it could also lead to physical discomfort. Time stops passing once you unplug. It becomes infinite. You must find things to do with all that time.
Start with the question: What would I do if I had to spend it offline? Pretend you have no choice in the matter. The servers went down, or Mark Zuckerberg wants to punish us for a day so he shut down Facebook and Instagram. Whatever. What would you do for a day if you had no access to the internet and your digital devices? Make a note of what comes to mind and do those things. Personally, I would read a book, go for a long walk, do chores around the house, and most importantly, try to sit still.
Which brings us to another important, maybe the second most important, point: pay attention. When you unplug, your attention becomes yours. Your attention belongs to you and you have to do something with it. I say lean into the moment and pay attention to your attention. What do you notice? What do you feel? Do you feel a certain discomfort? Is it boredom? Fear of missing out? Are you feeling lonely? Pay attention and reflect. It’s okay if it feels uncomfortable. I try to think of it as my brain reorienting itself to a different way of being, but it’s not a bad thing or something that needs to be fixed. It just requires getting used to. In any case, you can always turn your phone back on.
Lastly, do not bullshit yourself, and do not overcomplicate it.
Some people (your own internal dialogue) ask, what if I am at the store and accidentally looked at the security camera screen? Does that count as a digital activity? The sink is leaking, can I look up how to fix leaking sink on Google or would that ruin the challenge? Oh, and my mom died, can I still call my family? I hope you do. It’s not all or nothing as much as it is, if you can fully unplug for a whole day, how would you spend your day, and what can you learn about your relationship to the digital world by taking a break from it?
My favourite thing about unplugging for a full day, or more, is how easily I adapt to the daily grind without the internet. I simply do. When there is nothing other than what is in my immediate reality to distract myself with, I naturally immerse myself in what is around me; a kitchen that needs to be cleaned, a book I have been meaning to finish, the garden that needs tending, and so on. Living flows without the interruption of the digital world, and it is lovely. It can be scary to step away from what has become routine, comfort, stability. You remove the blanket, and realize it is a cold lonely world. So what? You can choose knowingly. Maybe you prefer being online; it beats the alternative. Or, you realize it is not too bad to unplug, to be left alone with your own thoughts, without the chatter and gaze of the digital space, and you prefer it that way.
Until next time,
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