In a single day, the average American spends eleven hours with digital media. With so many ways to stay connected, it can be difficult to power down the screen and engage with the world beyond it. But sunset on Friday, March 7, offers an excuse to get off the grid. The National Day of Unplugging, which lasts until Saturday at sundown, is a celebration of face-to-face interaction. It’s also a challenge. Carving out a day of the week to exist outside of the digital world, for many Americans, sounds like an impossible task. This week our podcast panelists discuss the benefits and pitfalls of unplugging. We’re joined by Tanya Schevitz of Reboot and the creators of the National Day of Unplugging. We’ll also chat with Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, and Dr. Hilarie Cash, the co-founder of an internet addiction recovery program. Mark Glaser is out this week, so our esteemed regular Andrew Lih will be filling his shoes, and regular panelist Monica Guzman of The Seattle Times and Geekwire will join as well.
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March 7 is the The National Day of Unplugging — a sundown-to-sundown self-imposed electronics exile inspired by the Jewish sabbath, which begins each Friday evening and ends at nightfall on Saturday. The traditional sabbath has been an opportunity to spend time with family and rest after a week of work. Some abstain from using electricity or driving as a symbol of absolute relaxation and reflection. The National Day of Unplugging is the 21st century digital sabbath.
Dr. Steiner-Adair argues in her book that technology changes the social fabric of families, providing new parenting challenges and creating a barrier in relationships. It can even become an addiction, as some internet users find themselves unable to tear themselves away from the limitlessness of cyberspace. Despite all of the marvels of the digital age, are the nine hours in front of screens everyday stealing too much time away from face-to-face interaction? The National Day of Unplugging was created five years ago, before rich online human interaction became so common. Today, we have many digital forms of human-oriented engagement too — online dating, social networking, Skype video, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Snapchat and other live connections to others. Are the digital sabbath concerns the same, five years later, or do we need to guard against new dynamics and addictions?
OTHER MediaShift Posts:
Celebrate Day of Unplugging with Nap-In, Typewriters, Live Music, by Angela Washeck
Tips for Unplugging and What to Do Once You Do, by Tanya Schevitz
How Do You Unplug When You Live and Work Online? by Dena Levitz
Tablets Expected to Outsell PCs by 2015 (Mashable)
Claire Groden is the podcast intern for PBS Mediashift and a senior at Dartmouth College. You can follow Claire on Twitter @ClaireGroden.