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REBOOT: Disconnect to Connect on National Day of Unplugging

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Here's a novel notion, grounded in science: Human beings aren't meant to operate like computers; continuously, at high speeds, for long periods of time, running multiple programs at the same time.

Instead, we're designed to pulse - to move rhythmically between spending and renewing energy. But we don't.

For the next 24 hours, beginning at dusk tonight, a group called Reboot Inc. is inviting all of us to participate in a National Day of Unplugging. For one day, they're asking us to turn off our email, resist checking Facebook, and reconnect instead with our families, our friends and most of all, with ourselves.

You're connected right now, of course. How many windows do you have open on your computer? Or perhaps you're reading this on your iPhone? When was
the last time you checked email, updated your status on Facebook or watched a YouTube video?

When was the last time you truly unplugged for more than two or three hours, not counting sleep?

We have too many ways to communicate with each other, too easily, about too little. The consequence is that we live in a world of utterly fractured attention.

The more hours we spend plugged in, without real renewal, the more we begin to default reflexively into behaviors that reduce our effectiveness and take a pernicious toll on others: impatience, frustration, anxiety and distraction.

Because so many of us are forever anticipating the next electronic communication - and responding with Pavlovian predictability - we're increasingly unable to invest our singularly absorbed attention or energy in any one person or activity.

Ironically, all this back and forth often leaves us feeling emptier and less connected. Tweeting and texting may keep us up to date, but they're a poor substitute for real connection.

It isn't only during the weekends that we need to unplug. Staying constantly connected takes a toll on our productivity and satisfaction at work, too. How much more could you get done if you turned off your email at certain times and stopped updating facebook and twitter so often?

Reboot's call to unplug for a day is plainly just a first step, but it's also a terrific opportunity to see how it feels to utterly eliminate the noise of technology from your life.

If you're someone who keeps constantly connected, unplugging may be a bit like detoxing from a drug. You may feel more anxious at first, rather than more relaxed.
See if you can tolerate the discomfort. It's sort of like learning to meditate. When you first close your eyes and start breathing, the internal chatter can seem louder, not quieter.

That's OK. If the prospect of 24 hours unplugged seems overwhelming, consider just taking an extra hour or two to sit over a meal or a cup of herbal tea with someone you love -- free of any other connections.

And when you do reconnect electronically, plug back in and let me know how it went, for better or for worse.

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