Two weeks to go until the National Day of Unplugging

Parents using phones white lying in bed with baby
© iStock/Viktorcvetkovic

The annual call for a 24-Hour digital detox enters 11th year, with this year’s event prioritising offline over online engagement

The National Day of Unplugging (NDU) will take place from sundown-to-sundown, Friday, March 6 to Saturday, March 7, 2020. The event has been at the forefront of the movement to educate people about the dangers involved with over-reliance on technology, especially as it pertains to handheld devices.

Technology’s impact on mental health

Back in 2009 when the NDU began, there was very little academic and clinical research had been conducted about the long term impact of smartphone use on mental health.

Recognising the need for awareness of what might become a bigger problem, the Jewish arts and culture non-profit Reboot launched the Sabbath Manifesto, a project designed to slow down lives in an increasingly hectic world.

That program evolved into NDU and led the way for other organisations to form, including Levi Felix Camp Grounded and Center for Humane Technology.

David Katznelson, Reboot’s Executive Director and CEO says: “Technology is both one of the most helpful and potentially troubling modern-day advances – making communication easier as a global community, but also feeding addictive behaviours that often supersede human interaction.”

Creating a life/tech balance

There are over 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide and according to recent studies, the average smartphone user taps, swipes or clicks their phone 2617 times per day, with most starting immediately when they wake up.

Dr Tracy Dennis Tiwary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at The City University of New York and creator of the anxiety-reduction app, Personal Zen, explained: “As we see a spike in anxiety and loneliness relating to daily engagement with technology devices, it’s important for families to teach their children about life/tech balance, just as we teach them about healthy eating and physical fitness.”

Putting human interaction over digital connections

Over the years, there has been an explosion in the movement to rebalance our relationship with technology, developing products, cultivating communities and publishing books that explore various aspects of the vital need to elevate human interaction over digital connections.

In its second decade, NDU will drive the global dialogue to examine the broader social impact of unplugging–addressing energy conservation, mental health, personal productivity and the socio-economic implications of technology use in underserved communities.

As part of this global dialogue, NDU ambassador Kim Cavallofounder of the company lilspace, is spearheading the program’s new initiative with brand partners through the Unplug for a Cause™ challenge.

Cavallo explained: “In recent years, brands have spent billions of marketing dollars on digital advertising designed to keep us clicking and scrolling. We’re eager to help companies engage their customers in a new way, sponsoring unplugging challenges.”

Additionally, this year’s Unplug for a Cause™ sponsor Renfro has agreed to donate a pair of socks for every unplugged minute tracked in the lilspace app throughout the month of March to the non-profit homeless services organisation Knock Knock Give A Sock.

For 2020, NDU partner events/programs include:

  • A conversation forum, “The Technology of Human Connection”, co-hosted by Facebook at Civic Hall in New York, New York;
  • Games and activities for young children in the Unplugged Village at the local Farmers Market in La Mesa, California;
  • Opportunities for individuals to book an Unplugged retreat experience through Vosant Meetings + Travel at Miraval Resorts in Tuscon, AZ or Austin, TX throughout the month of March.

Those interested in participating can visit The National Day of Unplugging’s website to “Take The Pledge”, download a free toolkit with tips to help get the most out of tech-free time and get information about the events.

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