March 2nd, 2017

To unplug or not to unplug – is that the question?

Ever find it hard to get through the day without posting an update to Facebook? Or to go more than 30 minutes without checking your messages? You may want to join thousands of others around the world in
the National Day of Unplugging. It starts at sunset this evening, wherever you are in the world.

Now in its 8th year, this event began in the USA and was inspired by the Jewish Sabbath tradition of observing a weekly day of rest to unwind, relax and connect with loved ones. Participants pledge to unplug from digital media for as long as they can during this 24-hour period, and focus instead on living life a different way.

In this age of distraction, where communications overload is endemic, it’s not surprising that people welcome the opportunity to unplug. With our heads buried in our digital devices, it’s easy to miss something more vitally important right under our nose. Real life can pass us by unnoticed.

The difficulty with allowing ourselves to be constantly bombarded through a multitude of communication channels is that we’re always on the back foot, feeling behind, never quite catching up.

A digital detox is one way of addressing this. Just as fasting can cleanse our body of toxins, digitally unplugging can give our mind a chance to rest. Both can be good for our health. Both are about exercising choice.

1. Choose to take responsibility for managing your digital communications.
2. Choose which channels you want to keep open. Decide based on your priorities and what adds meaningful value to your life.
3. Choose when, how and to whom you will respond.

If you do this, you can both stay connected to your remote network and be present for those around you.

The retreats I run in the French Alps are about giving busy people a chance to step back and take stock. I encourage people to unplug, avoid alcohol and caffeine and eat healthily while they’re with me, but I don’t insist on it. I find that the calming, supportive environment of the retreat generally enables people to find the right balance for them. Stepping back and taking stock gives people chance to re-evaluate their relationships – with themselves, others and their devices.