Thirty years ago, the S. C. Johnson Company introduced a new member of their Glade line of fragrance products called the “PlugIn”. Maybe you have one in your bathroom. The PlugIn uses a small amount of electricity to warm up scented oil, which slowly diffuses into the nearby air. You can even get one that lights up. Ironically, the Glade PlugIn was my first thought when I read about this week’s National Day of Unplugging.
So this is what we’ve come to in the year 2021. As a counter to our undying affection for our electronic devices, a portion of the next couple of days has been designated “National Day of Unplugging” (NDoU) by a non-profit organization called Unplug Collaborative. The Collaborative started its membership early last year and is determined to “spread awareness about how to maintain a healthy life/tech balance”. Theirs is a noble, if not impossible effort.
It’s just an awareness campaign, I get it. Unplugging phones, tablets, laptops, and whatever else you consider “tech” for one whole day is essentially raising the white flag on what each of us already admit: we spend too much time with our screens. But let’s be honest – what exactly defines “healthy life/tech balance”? I think the answer is highly personal, depending on your job, disposable income, place of residence, and the ways you choose to spend your downtime.
My wife is a wonderful example of “wired” (er, “wireless”); someone who twenty years ago tentatively navigated texting, apps, and what little else her basic cell phone had to offer. Today, she sports the latest model Apple Watch, two iPads, and a MacBook, all of which seamlessly share information with each other and then with her. She even sports a protective wristband to reduce her exposure to electromagnetic radiation.
I can’t imagine my wife “unplugging” for four hours, let alone twenty-four. My conversation with her would go something like this:
“Hey honey, so there’s this thing called ‘National Day of Unplugging’ where we get to shut down all of our electronic devices and work on making our life/tech balance better. Just give me your watch and your tablets and your laptop and I’ll lock them in the closet until tomorrow night. Sound good?”
The response I’d get (if I did get a response from her) would be something like,
“Wait, WHAT??? National Day of WHAT? Are you freaking kidding me? Hahahahahahaha, good one, honey. Yeah, let me think on that for just a second… um, NO WAY. And keep your hands off my screens!”
I get it. Not only does my wife fiercely track her 10,000 steps and her circles on her watch, she monitors a dozen or more daily feeds on her tablets, and countless emails and websites on her laptop. It would be just as soul-sucking as taking my Amazon Kindle e-reader away from me (and let’s not even discuss that possibility).
Unplug our gadgets and then what do we do… watch TV? Sorry, if I’m really gonna play this game the TV also has to go. The point of NDoU no doubt, is to reestablish face-to-face communication, prepare meals together, get outdoors, read books (what’s a “book”?), and so on. Unplug Collaborative’s website lists fully one hundred ways to spend your time devoid of tech. You can’t unlock the full list without signing up for their membership so I’m just speculating on examples. [Hey, if you join, let me know if one of the hundred is “fool around in the bedroom”. That one doesn’t take anything plugged in. At least, nothing I have any experience with.]
If the NDoU campaign really gets momentum, I could see the unplugging moving beyond tech. Perhaps next year we’ll give the washer and dryer a day’s rest too, as well as the home exercise equipment, the stereo speakers, and the kitchen appliances. Now there’s a frightening image. Imagine twenty-four hours in dirty clothes, with no workout, singing just to make a little music, and sandwiches and pretzels for dinner. Okay, skipping the workout wouldn’t be so bad.
For the record, I’m a proponent of a healthy life/tech balance. Taking away my screens for a day isn’t such a bad thing. After all, we could be talking about my coffeemaker here. Now don’t be talking about unplugging my coffeemaker. You’re gonna have a fight on your hands and you don’t want to see me without my morning coffee. Do that and I might have to think about unplugging you.