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Day of Unplugging encourages people to get off devices

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For one day last March, people like Ali Roth added some brightness to their lives by turning things off.

From sundown on March 6 to sunset on March 7, National Day of Unplugging participants were encouraged to do a total detox from all forms of technology, such as phones, computers and TVs. The site reminds visitors that “we increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our devices.”

Reboot, a Jewish arts and culture nonprofit, started the National Day of Unplugging project as “an adaption of our ancestors’ ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.” Participants did not have to share Jewish heritage or religious beliefs to participate in the National Day of Unplugging.

Ali Roth was one participant who learned a bit about the costs and benefits of giving up all technology for 24 hours. The marketing manager for OnToCollege, an organization that offers ACT and SAT test prep resources for high schoolers, said technology overuse is one issue she and her team see across a lot of schools in Nebraska. 

Roth realized that a 24-hour detox aligned with the messages she tries to send to students about the value of education. 

She quickly found how productive she could be without her phone, checking off multiple tasks that she’d been putting off all week. She read a book, ran errands, washed her car, went to the grocery store, never panicking about leaving or losing her phone because there was no phone in her hand to be panicked about. 

“It was kind of fun to just leave without thinking, ‘Do I have my phone?’” Roth said.  

Roth was surprised at the work she had to do just to plan a simple gathering for her friends during her detox. Before, she could have sent a simple text to communicate the plans. But this weekend, Roth had to rely on 

One of the hardest parts of the day for Roth was the simple fact that none of her friends or family wanted to participate with her. Though several people had expressed their support and admiration for Roth’s endeavor, no one committed to the detox themselves.

But she said she also realizes that total detoxes might not be possible or prudent for everyone. 

“I know someone who has diabetes, and it all tracks on her phone,” Roth said. “For someone like that, their phone is literally their lifeline.”

While Roth finds it easier to put her phone and computer away in “big swings,” she knows that smaller, daily changes to her technology habits are more likely to lead to lasting results. Roth suggests setting phone restrictions that alert users when they’ve spent too much time on certain apps on their phone. 

“I don’t think it’s ever going to be convenient to do, but most good things in life aren’t convenient,” Roth said.