The joy of going offline.
Filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Shlain once urged friends to connect online. Now she wonders, “how do you get people offline regularly to live a good life?” In this bright debut, she offers a very personal solution: Take a weekly “Technology Shabbat,” a day spent without smartphones or any other screen. A secular Jew and child of the 1970s, the author and her husband and daughters have been unplugging for one full day, every week, for nearly 10 years—and liking it. Troubled that everyone is “head-down looking at screens all the time”—like “ostriches burying our heads in silicon sand”—she argues that the traditional day of rest works nicely to reduce the stress of news, tweets, and other electronic distractions. Benefits include increased productivity, reduced burnout, and greater quality of life. Writing in a pleasing, conversational style, Shlain reminds us that, according to one study, American adults spend 74 hours per week staring at a screen. “Screens have become like members of the family,” she writes, noting some people keep power on even during Lamaze classes. Drawing on family experiences, she focuses on the basics of 24/6 living, beginning with the need to get back your landline: A phone plugged into a wall is critical for emergencies. Have needed supplies at hand (pad and sharpie pens, radio or record player, camera, books, other offline amusements), tell your relatives and boss, invite friends to join the day, entice your children (with games, picnics, bike rides), and so on. A weekend day is best for Tech Shabbat, when there is time for cooking, excursions, talks, visits, or doing nothing. While outdoors, borrow someone else’s phone to make calls. Shlain’s detailed examples will seem a bit much for some, but they make clear how an off-day can refresh the entire family.
A useful and much-needed guide to turning the clock back to a less frazzled pre-internet and -smartphone day.