Unplugged
How and why more Internet addicts are just saying no
Tech / 31 Mar 2010

After nearly a decade of wiring ourselves within an inch of our lives only to discover that technology and the Web may be re-shaping our brains, shrinking our attention spans and possibly even making us dumber, it was inevitable that one day we'd start to say "enough is enough." For some, that day may be here. Sure, everyone knows a few holdouts who never opted into the digital deluge to begin with, but the concept of unplugging is gaining traction among those who most definitely opted in. Unplugging can take many forms; it can be temporary or permanent, limited to specific technologies or all-encompassing. And the reasons for doing it are endless, from Big Brother-style fears to a growing awareness that our behavior is scarily similar to that of lab rats. We can envision a time when unplugging, in one form or another, could become as commonplace as plugging in is today.

Freedom: Sometimes we need a little help to unplug, or so goes the logic of this computer application, which temporarily renders Web connections inoperative for up to eight hours. Indeed, anyone who has ever sat down at the computer to complete a task only to find themselves mindlessly browsing someone else's Facebook profile knows how easy it is to be sidelined by the Internet. Freedom eliminates that problem by allowing users to program the amount of time they wish to be "free" from digital distraction. (Those who absolutely need to log back in to check up on important matters can disable the program by restarting.)
National Day of Unplugging: We've written before about No Technostress Day, an event organized by an Italian nonprofit to raise awareness about the dangers of technology. Recently, a Jewish organization called Reboot staged its own version - essentially, an observance of the age-old ritual of Shabbat, only with a 21st century spin, and open to individuals of all denominations. On the National Day of Unplugging, which stretched from sundown March 19 to sundown March 20 and attracted a flurry of media attention, participants were asked to put technological devices to sleep (literally) and reconnect to the real world (friends, family, community - and not of the Facebook variety).
Digital Vacations: Self-sanctioned "digital vacations" - individuals unplugging on their own, without the help of outside groups or other technology - are on the rise. More than a bit ironic, the most vocal unpluggers tend to document their experiences online. Ariel Meadow Stallings, for example, stayed away from technology for one night a week for a year and blogged about the experience in a project called 52 Nights Unplugged. We're seeing the concept bubble up in the pop cultural zeitgeist, too. In Noah Baumbach's latest movie Greenberg, one character tells another, "I'm trying to quit email." Perhaps the surest sign that the trend is afoot: Julia Alison, the queen of shameless online self-exposure, recently announced she'll be logging off for a while.
©The Intelligence Group