The Unplugging Challenge

The unplugging challenge

Once upon a time, people spoke face-to-face instead of screen-to-screen. You learned about what was going on with a friend over a cup of coffee, not over Facebook or Instagram. You celebrated with loved ones by sending them a congratulatory note or swinging by with a gift, not hitting “like.” But with the unrelenting growth of technology and social media, the way the world communicates has changed. In fact, the way the world lives has changed.


Now, the freedom to instantly contact someone halfway across the world is obviously not bad or destructive. It’s when you feel that you can’t step away from your device for a few hours — or even a few minutes — that the negative nature of modern technology reveals itself. In an interview with the New York Times, Stanford researcher and psychologist Kelly McGonigal puts it like this: “People have a pathological relationship with their devices. People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”


So how do you break free from this addiction without smashing every tablet and smartphone in your home? If you can go cold turkey for a few days and clear the fog of the Information Age, you might remember what it’s like to actually see a sunset instead of instinctively Instagramming it. Here’s how to take the Unplugging Challenge and reclaim your brain.


Decide on a realistic time period

If you compulsively check your email every two or three minutes, it’s unreasonable to think you’ll have no problem powering off your phone for a week. Start smaller. Block out a few hours on a weekend afternoon or weeknight to turn off your phone, your laptop, your tablet, and any other devices you have handy. If you do feel up to a bigger challenge, aim for an entire weekend to start.


Prep for pitfalls

If you know that your digital achilles heel is politics, celebrity news, or Snapchats of friends’ babies, consider how you’re going to fight your technological cravings before you go into blackout mode. Stack up some books you’ve been meaning to read or gather the materials for home DIY projects that you’ve been putting off. If you have something to replace your phone, it’ll be easier to successfully unplug.


Clue in close friends

Perhaps friends and family have come to expect you to text back within a minute or two, and if they don’t hear from you for a few hours (let alone a few days), they’ll begin to panic. If this is the case, let them know about your break from technology. Maybe you can even encourage them to join you if they’ve been trying to kick the habit, too.



Now that you have everything in place for your unplugging challenge, there’s only thing left to do: turn off your devices. Spend a few minutes savoring the silence and then, when the urge to check Facebook inevitably hits, turn to one of the activities you have on hand to keep your brain engaged in the here and now.



Silicon Valley Says Step Away From the Device [The New York Times]

Can You Survive The ‘Unplugged’ Challenge? [Family Online Safety Institute]

The Unplugged Challenge: Surviving a tech-free weekend [GenTwenty]

Our Unplugging Challenge: Seven Days Without Our Devices [Huffington Post]