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Tanya Schevitz Headshot

Unplugging Is the New Status Update

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Even the bathroom isn't an escape anymore.

About 75 percent of people use their phones in the bathroom, according to a survey by the marketing agency 11Mark. About the same percentage of people check e-mail during their time off, Xobni and Harris Interactive found. A freaky 15 percent of people have interrupted sex to answer a cell phone call, reported.

Nothing is sacred anymore.

It was that constant connectedness, the desire, compulsion and expectation that everyone be within reach through a phone call, text, email or Facebook or Twitter post that inspired the National Day of Unplugging, which will have its fourth observance from sundown Friday, March 1, 2013, to sundown Saturday, March 2, 2013. Reboot, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to reinvent Jewish traditions and rituals, founded the National Day of Unplugging, with the recognition that the deluge of technology had reached a tipping point and people are craving a break.

"The NDU offers a needed respite," said Dr. Hilarie Cash, co-founder of the ReSTART rehabilitation camp for Internet addicts in Fall City, Wash. "When people take a break it gives them that reminder of what it is like to live in the world, to be around people and not be constantly distracted."

Dan Rollman, co-founder and CEO of RecordSetter was in the middle of launching his new startup, an online database of world records, when he went on a Reboot retreat in Park City, Utah. As he sat on the mountain watching the sun set for Shabbat, he began to think of how dependent -- or addicted -- he was to technology, and that this connectedness never allowed him a moment of pause. He had never observed Shabbat and didn't have much interest in the ancient Jewish traditions. But the Internet and technology had started to consume his every waking moment, and he recognized that he wanted a modern way to observe a weekly day of rest.

From that desire to reclaim Shabbat came the idea of the Sabbath Manifesto, a project embracing the theme of the slow movement with 10 principles that encourage a slower lifestyle where technology is shut off and the focus is on appreciating food, wine, loved ones, community, health and the outdoors.

The day promotes not just one day of unplugging, but a lifestyle change. The idea is to slow down life enough to observe each of the 10 principles (Avoid Technology, Connect With Loved Ones, Nurture Your Health, Get Outside, Avoid Commerce, Light Candles, Drink Wine, Eat Bread, Find Silence, Give Back) one day per week, from sunset to sunset. That could be on the traditional Jewish Shabbat of Friday night to Saturday night, or any day of the week. The project recognizes that everyone from any background can benefit from reclaiming a day of rest and that the need to pause and refocus is universal.

Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims and more from Australia to India to Chile have embraced the National Day of Unplugging. In the last two weeks, we have had more than 5,000 visitors from all 50 states and 68 countries on the National Day of Unplugging website.

Seeing what inspires people when they start to unplug regularly from their devices prompted Reboot to develop a new campaign for NDU 2013 to encourage people to share why they are unplugging, such as "I unplug to clean up a beach," "I unplug to feel alive," or "I unplug to climb a mountain."

There is evidence that people are starting to hit a breaking point with technology. A recent study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found that people are increasingly stepping away from Facebook, either taking a several weeks as a "Facebook vacation" or signing off completely.

The 2013 study found that 61 percent of Facebook users have taken a voluntary break of several weeks from the site at one time or another and 27 percent plan to spend less time on the site this coming year. Others have gotten off it completely, with 20 percent of online adults surveyed reporting they once used Facebook but no longer do so.

Many people are telling us that they want to stop living through Facebook and Twitter and reconnect with family, friends and the community around them in real life.

The goal of the National Day of Unplugging is to take stock of our digital consumption -- if we pause and reflect on our use of our digital devices, we will be more aware of the impact. From this new-found awareness, we hope that people will try to put their digital devices aside more regularly, for an hour, for the length of a family dinner or a romantic walk, for however long it takes to recharge themselves and to reconnect with those around them.

Go to to learn more and to upload your own unplugging photo.

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