National Day of Unplugging: Count me out

Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has a story on the National Day of Unplugging, which is from sundown today to sundown tomorrow (Saturday).

It’s in the Business section, with a big picture of Anne Wojcicki, cofounder of 23andme Inc. and Sergey Brin’s wife. Wojcicki “sometimes carries four cell phones, sleeps with a BlackBerry on her pillow and finds herself instant messaging people sitting next to her.”

The reporter seems to think that everyone is as addicted as she seems to be: “Consider how increasingly rare it is to get through a conversation or a meal without someone glancing at their phone.” Really? We took my brother & sister-in-law out to dinner last night (at a casual Italian place), the place was nearly full, and I don’t believe I saw one cell phone in use at any table in our vicinity–certainly not ours. Yes, I do see some people at some lunch places making a point of placing their phones on the table so they’re always in touch. I wouldn’t voluntarily dine or converse with these folks.

Wojcicki “hopes to institute the tradition weekly around the household” and says “It’s really about achieving balance and spending some time where you’re really just connected with the environment and the people around you.”

So during Sabbath (yes, the NDU was created by a group “focused on updating Jewish traditions to make them more relevant to modern life”) you’ll take 24 precious hours away from Your Precious in all its connecting glory. And think you’ve achieved balance?

I’m not having it. Oh, it’s quite likely that I won’t be on a cell phone between sundown tonight and sundown Saturday: That’s true most days. But I’ll almost certainly use email and FriendFeed and look at other online sources as appropriate. Never during a meal, to be sure, and never during a conversation, and not while we’re out enjoying the real world, and not when we’re watching TV, and not when I’m reading.

That’s called balance: making an appropriate place for interruptive technology and keeping it in its place. Period. Except for emergencies–and, you know, you’d be surprised how few true emergencies there are in most people’s lives.

Hey, if declaring a National Day gets that Blackberry off your pillow for one night, I guess that’s progress. But don’t tell me it’s balance, and don’t confuse taking an occasional timeout with achieving some form of sensible balance.

4 Responses to “National Day of Unplugging: Count me out”

  1. John Says:

    I’ve never known a significant act that didn’t start from a small act. Count me in.

  2. T Scott Says:

    Yes, balance. It’s not that hard to achieve, but it requires thought and discipline. Marian (32 yr old stepdaughter) loves her iPhone and loves being in touch. Lynn (60 yr old spouse) lives through her Blackberry. Josie (6 yr old granddaughter) manipulates her Mom’s iPhone with ease and sent her first email a week ago. But when we’re together having dinner at our house, we’re at the dining room table and the devices are not. When we go out to eat (as we do about once a week) we’re focused on engaging with each other, and we have a fine time. Occasionally, if Lynn or Marian are waiting for something that has some urgency, they’ll keep an eye on their phone, but that’s an exception that’s explained and allowed.

    Disconnecting for 24 hours might make you feel like you’re doing something special, but it’s not going to help you achieve balance.

  3. walt Says:

    John: I’m not telling you not to join in–but what T.Scott says. If not being a slave to connectivity is so Special that it requires a National Day, then there’s something wrong. But that’s just me.

  4. John Says:

    “then there‚Äôs something wrong” … of that I am sure


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