Disconnect or Die?

cover

Unplug Thyself : Disconnect for National Day of Unplugging

By Tim Walker

Are you suffering from electronics overload? Are there days when your phone and your tablets, when that overused social media account—with its seemingly endless stream of silly memes and political debates, barely-known “friends” and petty complaints—becomes too much to take? Do you ever miss seeing birds, trees, and flowering plants firsthand? Have you forgotten what your spouse looks like when he or she’s not on FaceTime?

Then sit back, unplug, and relax. Put your feet up. Because we have a day for you.

From sundown on March 3 until sundown on March 4, the eighth observance of the National Day of Unplugging will take place. During that 24-hour period of technology-free, retro bliss, eye-strained people all over the world will shut off their phones, unkink their backs, and reconnect with their friends and families, as well as art, books, and nature.

“This all started, surprisingly enough, on top of a mountain,” says Tanya Schevitz, National Communications and San Francisco Bay Area Program Manager for Reboot, speaking with the Dayton City Paper from California. “It all started with this conversation with Dan Rollman. We were at one of our retreats, and we were on top of this mountain, and we were unplugging for Shabbat, because Reboot is a Jewish organization.”

Reboot, she goes on to explain, is a cultural nonprofit organization, which affirms the value of Jewish traditions and creates new ways for people to make them their own. Inspired by Jewish ritual and the arts, humor, food, philosophy, and social justice, Reboot produces creative projects that attempt to spark the interest of young Jews as well as the larger community. In 2010, the organization began the National Day of Unplugging.

“Dan was unplugged,” she continues, “And he thought to himself, ‘This is amazing,’ because he was one of those people who never unplugs. […] So with him, we came up with this idea of just rebooting—a day of rest—for everyone, all over the world. We believe that everyone in today’s society really needs to reclaim a day of rest because we have just gone over the tipping point in our use of technology, the 24/7 office, and we are just completely plugged in all of the time.”

Schevitz pauses to reflect a bit before continuing, “So we started the National Day of Unplugging. […] We’re now in our eighth year, and it has gone from being ahead of its time, to now—it’s become the zeitgeist. It’s the thing that everyone is talking about, because everyone is so overwhelmed now. You have stuff—news, messages, calls—coming at you nonstop. So we created this day in which we encourage people to pause, and to look at their use of technology, and consider the impact it has on themselves and those around them. And to try then to start to unplug, to hit that ‘pause’ button occasionally, to try and begin taking regular breaks. So even though this is just one day per year, it is not by any means just about that; we want people to learn to take regular breaks, whether it be for 24 hours, or an hour, or even a half hour to reconnect with their family. It’s all about pausing and thinking about it.”

According to halakha, Jewish religious law, Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night. Shabbat observance entails refraining from work activities, often with great rigor, and engaging in restful activities to honor the day. Traditionally, Shabbat is ushered in by lighting candles and reciting a blessing. Three festive meals are eaten: in the evening, in the early afternoon, and another late in the afternoon.

“The idea from the Jewish perspective is that we take one day to rest, to cease,” says local Rabbi Judy Chessin, who has served at Temple Beth in Dayton for 32 years. “The idea is that God worked six days and then shabbat, or ceased, and the idea is that one should take a day to cease doing what we do every other day of the week, so we have time and opportunity to reflect upon why we do it, and what it’s all about, and who it’s for.” She points out that in this day and age, people work and stay plugged in online 24/7.

“We know, physically and mentally, [that] is distressing. So the whole idea of ceasing that which we do every other day is to refresh one’s soul and one’s mind and one’s spirit, and unplugging is a great way to do that,” she adds.

DAYTON: UNPLUGGED

So what is a screen-weary local person to do during this day of unplugged blissfulness?

Start by reconnecting with your loved ones and family members. Make dinner with your family, and get the kids involved. Walk the dog at the local dog park. Get some sun. Take in a local bookstore or the Dayton Art Institute, or enjoy a quiet activity of your own. Anything that feeds your soul and gives you a chance to reflect on life and the people who matter to you—a walk in the park while holding hands with your significant other may sound corny, but enjoying each other’s company free from the demands of cell phones and Facebook may be a great deal more enjoyable than it seems.

Enter a new world
Dayton’s One Dollar Book Swap, located at 1723 Webster St. in Dayton, is certainly a great place to go if you want to spend an enjoyable hour or so away from the demands of the computer screen, either by yourself or with loved ones.

“For every book that we sell, we try to give one away,” says owner Greg Murphy. “We work with nonprofits a lot. We have volunteers who come in, mostly teachers from the community, and they’ll help sort books, some of which are sold in the store and some of which are donated. And for every three hours that they work, they get $30 in store credit—which, if you’ve been here, you know $30 goes a long way.”

“I’ve been selling books online since 2010,” Murphy continues. “But the idea for the store came about when a buddy of mine in Raleigh [North Carolina] who knew I was recycling sometimes 10 to 15 tons of books per day, said to me, ‘Greg, you know what you should do? Take the nicest books, the ones that you’re about to recycle, and open up a part of your warehouse to the public.’ Which is what we’ve done, and it has worked out great.”

With every book priced at one dollar and its huge selection of hardbacks, children’s books, audiobooks, and CDs, the One Dollar Book Swap may be exactly what you’re looking for while you unwind and reconnect with life away from your phone.

Sync with the season

A walk in one of our many beautiful local parks might be another way.

“The beautiful thing about the National Day of Unplugging is that it does occur in early March…which is a great time to get out and see spring waking up,” says Katrina Arnold, outdoor education program manager for Five Rivers MetroParks. There’s so much happening in nature at that time, [and] when you’re driving at 25 or 65 miles per hour down the road you’ll totally miss [it]. Just getting out and taking a walk at one of our Five Rivers MetroParks, or at one of the other beautiful parks in the area, is a really good way to get back in sync with the cycles and seasons of nature.”

“Another great place to be in early March is Possum Creek MetroPark,” Arnold continues, “because of the farm animals there. They really feel the season, and they start getting pretty feisty and animated at that time of year. So it’s a really great time to go out there and see the sheep, or the rabbits, the chickens, the goats, even Cuervo, our donkey. It’s always fun to go out and watch their antics.”

Open your eyes

The Dayton Art Institute is another treasured local resource for people looking to refresh their souls once they’ve unplugged. The Institute’s 2017 special exhibition season began on Feb. 11 with the exhibition Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist. This is the first major retrospective of one of today’s most accomplished artists, who is also a leading practitioner of contemporary landscape painting. The exhibition, which continues through May 7, features more than 60 of WalkingStick’s most notable paintings, drawings, sculptures, and notebooks, while exploring the artist’s search for the spiritual truth of her complex Native American cultural identity, all against the backdrop of key movements in art history.

Look back in time

The National Museum of the United States Air Force, a perennial favorite of those looking to get away from it all for a few hours, opened its fourth building last June. The $40.8 million, 224,000 square foot hangar, which was privately financed by the Air Force Museum Foundation, houses four galleries—Presidential, Research and Development, Space, and Global Reach, along with three science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Learning Nodes. It is well worth your time if you haven’t made the trip to see it yet.

Plug back in

Ultimately, the National Day of Unplugging is about taking time to reflect on your life and your loved ones and making room for the people who are close to you without the interference of the internet and those related technologies.

“People want to stop living through Facebook and Twitter and reconnect with family, friends, and the community around them in real life,” Reboot’s Tanya Schevitz reiterates. “We had an unplugging party at SXSW [South by Southwest] 2013 during the interactive festival where nearly 200 people spent a couple hours together without the cell phones. Afterward, a woman came up to me and said how powerful it was. She said, ‘My friends and I had conversations that we never would have had if we had our cell phones on.’ We hear this over and over again when we do unplugging events.”

As with so many things in this modern world, however, it is the children around us who most acutely feel this need to be constantly connected to technology, often to the detriment of their and our interpersonal relationships.

“As a parent, I really see the importance of unplugging,” Schevitz says in closing. “My two sons hate when I’m on the phone—I am certainly not perfect, and at different times during the year when work is really intense, it is really hard to tear myself away from my digital devices. But I really try to be aware of it and carve out some time to be totally present with my boys, even during the most intense work times. My family often takes unplugged vacations, and the time spent together is incredible and totally different than it would be if we were all connected to our devices.”

Whether relaxing on vacation or simply enjoying a quiet dinner at home, unplugging from our devices may conversely enable us to “plug in” to our loved ones’ lives and our own.

 

For more information on the One Dollar Book Swap, currently located at 1723 Webster St. in Dayton, please visit OneDollarBookSwap.com.

For more information on Five Rivers MetroParks, please visit MetroParks.org.

For more on the Dayton Art Institute, located at 456 Belmonte Park N. in Grafton Hill, and special exhibition Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist, please go to page 24-25 or visit DaytonArtInstitute.com.

For more information on the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at 1100 Spaatz St. in Dayton, please visit NationalMuseum.af.mil.

For more information on Reboot’s National Day of Unplugging, please visit NationalDayOfUnplugging.com.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Got an Opinion?

YourOpinionMatters

We are interested to hear what you think.  Please send us a message. [contact-form 4 “Opinion”]  

Springfield’s hidden gem

CoverHartman2

Referred to as an American Folk Art site, I didn’t know what I expected on my journey to Springfield’s Hartman […]

Debate 7/17: Flag on the Play

DebateBok

Q: Should persons with certain known behavioral tendencies such as suicide or violence be prohibited from owning guns? Legislatures across […]

Conspiracy Theorist 7/17: Hooray for Domino’s

Year after year, the same roads are torn up and road crews patch them. But they never really repair them. […]

On Your Marc 7/17: Good any day

First, a funny story. Larry Lee, the big tackle from Roth High School, for a number of reasons decided he […]

The Cult, Stone Temple Pilots, and Bush at Rose

CULT 2016 Tim Cadiente-2

“Rock and roll never forgets,” the classic rock song goes, and Billy Duffy, guitarist and founding member of the British […]