Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

National Unplugging Day

Well, I had it down in my diary that it was to be National Unplugging Day tomorrow (Tuesday)… so I was going to throw something about it here… except, it turns out it was held yesterday (maybe they make it a Sunday thing?) This is the downside to living life without TV or News.

Oh well, it’s just like Earth Day which I also missed this year. I was actually out for most of the day yesterday, so wasn’t really plugged in, but I wasn’t intentionally unplugged, so I don’t feel like I participated. Maybe I do my bit tomorrow. Who else missed it, and are you up for a day of unplugging?!

National Unplugging Day, the UK’s largest Digital Detox Movement, is when you pledge to go gadget free and spend the day from sun-up to sun-down without any technology. – [link]

I’m now thinking back to my two and a half weeks away camping and cycling; I consumed everything in my fridge before I left and then safely unplugged everything (saving myself some money on electricity – yay!) The electrical items I took with me were a mobile phone, digital camera, and bike lights; but I made all but two brief phone calls (one to my mum to tell her I was just about to enter Scotland, and another one to the library to renew a book) I economised with their usage so I wouldn’t need to charge them en-route, and I had just one occasion when I found a café with computer terminals and a free ten-minute allowance for me to check my e-mails. I was effectively off the grid.

It was nice to just ride each day and it felt like I had more energy for doing that because my brain could safely switch off from all the other stuff that run through it on a normal day, or rather, in order to get the most out of my energy I couldn’t afford to waste it thinking about nonsense.

I really needed those couple of weeks away.

I think I lead a pretty relaxed life but it’s interesting how different people find stress in different situations, and I seemed to be finding stress in things and work where I didn’t before; and I felt a strong need to be unplugged. I’d not had more than a weekend away for a good few years, partly because I like where I live and partly because my life seems pretty chilled out (or rather I have the freedom for it to be relaxed).

The internet and the multitude of services that fill our lives keep us constantly distracted, some more so than others, and while I do my best to switch off, I realise I have a constant compulsion to log in. The bane in my life is Second Life, but it could well be something else, as it has been in the past. Other people have their thing, whether it be Facebook or Twitter, for example.

Some people are more prone/susceptible to these addictions than others, but maybe we all need a vice in one form or another, or rather it’s perhaps too tough to live without at least one.

I was concerned that less than twenty days away wouldn’t be enough, and I was right. The Bible and other religious texts and mythological tales talk of “forty days and forty nights”, and I think there is some truth in that. As one website says:

40 appears so often in contexts dealing with judgment or testing, many scholars understand it to be the number of “probation” or “trial.” [link]

The month of October is labelled as Stoptober and smokers are encouraged to use the month to help them quit their addiction.

I felt somewhat changed from my ordeal of cycling and camping each day – I returned with renewed energy (and a large appetite for food!) My trip had been physically tough from day one when I set off in the rain, and each day I suffered an ache or pain in one from or another, from sore toes or hand, to sunburn and chest pain, but these things seemed to be part of what I needed. But true to form, once I was back home my old ways gradually returned.

It seems strange to me that some of us have these battles going on where part of us will just live and rather not consider about what things in our lives are bad habits, while another part of our being will observe, rationalise and criticise everything and seek to do better. “One cup of coffee is more than enough…” “You saw family/clients today and had a nice casual chat, you don’t need to log into the internet to seek more…” That’s how my mind works anyway. It’s like I have a fear of being unable to function without a To Do List to keep me on track. I observe some people who don’t seem to have this state of mind and either seem to manage just fine or instead get drawn into what I consider to be bad stuff without any consideration of, or point of reference for, making themselves “better”.

I guess such people can’t see the appeal of something like National Unplugging Day and how it could lead them onto a path of a more fulfilling life; a life where you feel fulfilled without having to look at a screen or gadget… that’s what I seek anyway, I think.

Therefore, Unplugging Day is supposed to be about switching off from our modern-day distractions. Some will wonder what they can do instead, the thing is, you just live – there’s still plenty to do, or you can do nothing. You can spend time with family and friends in person, or you can spend your time alone; it’s only for one day even if at the end of it you don’t feel changed enough for its effect to ripple through the rest of your life.

Of course, you may have taken part yesterday.

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