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Unplugging A Plugged-In World

Billed as a large scale attempt to bring awareness to our overindulgence with technology, the National Day of Unplugging offers a holistic means of healing digital addiction and burnout.

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Brooke Dean and Levi Felix. Photo via

By A. Razor

03/06/14

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This upcoming weekend will see the commencement of the National Day of Unplugging, billed as the largest attempt to bring awareness to a technology-addicted America. From sundown on March 7 to sundown on March 8, the non-profit group Reboot will be challenging people to a nationwide – and even worldwide – effort to ditch their gadgets for 25 hours cold turkey.

Along with Reboot, rapidly growing Digital Detox and Camp Grounded is promoting tech withdrawal festivities that are drawing considerable attention, even online. In what is being billed as the largest “off-the-grid celebration” to date, the March 7-8 event will be marked by planned events in San Francisco and Los Angeles as part of the National Day of Unplugging Campaign.

As a “slow down, not a start up,” Digital Detox and Camp Grounded were created by Levi Felix and Brooke Dean in answer to what they saw as a world quickly becoming obsessed with technology. In their eyes, rapid communication has been affecting the quality of life in a way that requires a counter-balancing movement. In the last year, their organization has sponsored many getaways, or "analog zones," and promoted the idea of technology balanced with humanity, with wellness as a priority.

The National Day of Unplugging created a stir last year, as well as a few criticisms for using high-tech mediums to advocate disconnecting from said technology, promoting their events and ideas, and growing their community. "We absolutely recognize the irony that we're using a high-tech device to promote a low-tech day, but that's the best way to get the word out," said Tanya Schevitz, the national communications manager for Reboot.

The community does seem to emanate from within the tech industry, and all the related media industries that rely heaviest on digital communication and hyper-connectivity in order to compete and create in the modern world. There is, however, a call among these same groups for an awareness of the impact that an overindulgence on digital technology has on the world around them, both positive and negative; a demand for greater responsibility in how personal interactions with technology need to be balanced with community interactions and a healthier approach.

All of these groups are headed by people who have felt the effects of digital addiction and burnout firsthand, and who have seen themselves and others recover from the consequences by engaging in community activism and advocating for wellness and mindfulness beyond the technological sphere of influence without demonizing the technology itself. The National Day of Unplugging Campaign might be viewed as a harm reduction model for individuals caught up in the world wide web with dwindling opportunities for escape. The upcoming events look to be an honest attempt to make use of the digital networks that are so obsessively consuming to create a more balanced consumer experience.

Naturally, Reboot has a smartphone app called ‘Sabbath Manifesto’ which they created several years ago to enable tech weary individuals the opportunity to unplug more readily. The National Day of Unplugging campaign has been growing ever since. Around the time Reboot unveiled their app and promoted the idea of unplugging for a day, Felix and Dean were living off the grid in Cambodia after a traumatic experience that sent them traveling the world on a spiritual healing quest. It was while in Cambodia that they reportedly first developed the ideas that would grow into the Digital Detox venture and the first Camp Grounded experience.

“On our return we realized that the world had not slowed down, everyone was always plugged-in, and burnout was all around us (or looming on the horizon especially for those involved in tech). So we decided that we wanted to share what we had learned traveling with those back home.” Felix said. “At our Digital Detox you surrender your phone, computer, iPod, watch and all other forms of technology. Then our dedicated team works to create a space that gives you the freedom and permission to truly unplug and decompress.“

This Friday in San Francisco the first event will begin at 7 p.m. within an "analog zone" that includes live music, arts, meditation, "device-free drinks" and where conversation with eye contact is encouraged until 1 a.m.

The rules are as follows: No work talk or networking, no digital technology, cameras or watches, and use nicknames. Admission is free with RSVP. The only price is unplugging your digital devices. Bring money for food, drinks and certain activities. Admission is first come, first served. Doors close when capacity is reached.

Saturday night’s event begins at 7:30 p.m. next to Venice Beach. The literature for the event, similar to the previous evening's, states emphatically, “Check your phone at the door and together we’ll redefine what it means to truly be connected. It’s like summer camp for adults, in the city, for one epic night of pure unadulterated fun. Unplug after a busy week and take time off the grid to feel awesome. Live music, board games, typewriters, analog photo booth, arts 'n crafts, face painting, wellness lounge and more...”

There has been a lot of publicity in the last year for the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and tech fatigue syndrome, which are rapidly becoming more commonly talked about and experienced by an ever growing number of people. Incidents of increased traffic fatalities from drivers using devices; obsessive-compulsive issues around internet shopping, pornography, and gambling; and unsuccessful relationship counseling outcomes due in part to digital technology are felt by many professionals in the mental health field to be ominous indicators of the necessity for some type of outreach and treatment plan that embraces the ideals espoused at these events.

It is obvious that there is a growing need for a more cohesive approach, some sort of peer-to-peer support group for those who have incurred serious consequences from being too plugged in. Whether or not events such as the National Day of Unplugging hold the key to such future solutions remains to be seen, but they do offer hope for a dialog by and with those driving technology at-any-cost success. At the very least, this weekend's events will allow us to plug in a little more sanely than before.

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