National Day of Unplugging 2021
For the past few years, I’ve heard about the annual National Day of Unplugging. And I’m always intrigued by the idea of spending an entire day without technology. But, as you might imagine, I’ve always had a convenient excuse as to why I couldn’t participate.
This year (2021) was different. I was able to get the day off work and spend the entire day technology-free — at least relatively so. I had to use a microwave, and I caught glimpses of other people using technology. But I successfully avoided using technology myself.
Here are a few things that I learned after spending a day without technology:
1. Unplugging took preparation
Making the decision to unplug for a day wasn’t easy or simple. For one, it meant taking the day off work, which my employer was awesome enough to allow. As someone who works remotely as a digital marketer, I’m someone who spends most of my time fully connected and plugged in.
Even small things like going to a dentist appointment took some forethought. I had to make sure I remembered the directions to the dentist because I normally rely on Google Maps for navigation. And I had to write down my appointment time because I normally confirm that on my digital calendar.
The day before disconnecting, I made sure to let people know that I wouldn’t be reachable like normal. I even set up an email autoresponder explaining why I wouldn’t be emailing back immediately.
Thankfully, there wasn’t anything urgent or important that required such during the day. But people are accustomed to being able to communicate with us constantly with phone calls, emails, text messages, and the like.
2. Unplugging forced me to think more
Having a day off without the constant tug of technology was relaxing. However, I still wanted to make the most of my time. This meant brainstorming a list of things to do ahead of time — even crossing out a few options that would require a phone or computer.
For example, I spent some time working in my yard — raking leaves and pulling weeds. However, I normally listen to a podcast episode during yard work. Instead, I spent that time in relative silence, which was a nice change of pace.
Since I’m also looking for a landscape company to help with some of the heavy yard work, I thought about calling a few companies to get quotes. However, that would obviously require a phone — so I delayed this task until another day.
None of those things were difficult decisions, they just required me to think more. I wasn’t able to do whatever I wanted immediately. Unplugging made me delay some gratification.
Some things I did without technology
- Had a dentist appointment
- Went for a walk outside
- Read a book
- Caught up on a Bible study
- Pulled some weeds in the yard
- Organized stuff around my house
- Took a nap
3. Unplugging wasn’t as difficult as you might think
Aside from the preparation and need for flexibility from those around me, unplugging wasn’t quite as difficult as you’d think. I wasn’t constantly reaching for my phone or pining for my laptop. It was actually nice to get time away from screens.
This made me realize that for most of us, it’s not always an internal plug that keeps us constantly online, it’s more of an external pressure from others. Sure, I’m eternally checking my email and Twitter account because of the easy dopamine hit, but also because I don’t want to miss an important message from someone.
Maybe it’s just me, but getting the excuse to spend time offline is a welcome experience. The National Day of Unplugging was just an acceptable reason to be virtually unreachable for a day. But the actual act of unplugging was relatively simple.
4. It was far too easy to re-plug
When I woke up on Saturday morning, I didn’t hesitate to check my phone for any text messages or emails that I may have missed. I was mostly curious to see what I had missed while offline (not much). And it felt all too natural to jump back on wifi — almost like I deserved it.
Nearly all of us have built up our digital muscle so much that using a connected device feels natural. It’s the disconnection that seems unnatural to us. Unplugging for a day the abnormal option. And replugging in the next day was nearly inevitable.
Unplugging was a good reminder of how much of my life is tied to technology. Re-plugging back in was even further evidence of that. At least, as I opened my apps and scrolled on social, I was slightly more cognizant of what I was doing and how much time it was taking.
It made me realize that I’d like to unplug again at some point again.
5. Unplugging is something I’ll continue to do
I’m not sure if I’ll completely unplug for an entire day again. I probably should, the main barrier is whether or not I’ll get the opportunity like I did this year. But I do know that I want to unplug more frequently — even if it’s for a short time.
An unplugged morning or afternoon. Leaving the phone at home during a walk. Spending the weekend without email or television. There are some steps each of us can take toward a more technology-heavy life.
Not because technology is bad — but we shouldn’t get to the point where we’re overly reliant and unappreciative of what it does. And spending a day without it was a good reminder of both. I can still use the internet and my smartphone with an acknowledgment of the power they hold.