An American organisation, Reboot, is sponsoring a National Day of Unplugging from sundown Friday 7th until stars out on Saturday 8th. You would be right to guess Reboot is a Jewish organisation, but the language they are using to urge us to unplug is universal. On the homepage kids hold up a sign ‘I unplug to play,’ there’s a woman unplugging to ‘focus on the faces in front of me.’ Someone sent me a Youtube link of Seinfeld demonstrating the ‘slow head down.’
It’s the gentle descent of a line of gaze from a face-to-face conversation to check the electronic screen welded to ones hand, ‘because this is what Blackberry commands us to do.’ Another friend sends me a link to the blog ‘handsfreemama’ – a blog predicated on the notion that we parent poorly because we are always clicking and swiping and tweeting and mailing.
I’m no luddite. Technology gives me extraordinary opportunities and I’m grateful for them, but there is something addictive and something lonely about a life lived only through a screen. Six days a week I plead guilty; guilty of being distracted, guilty of wandering attention, guilty of parenting with one eye elsewhere. But at least I have Shabbat. It is, and here the Yiddishism has it perfectly, a ‘mechaya,’ literally a burst of life, real life, unplugged, face to face. Try it, this week. From sundown Friday, turn off and unplug. Reboot offer, on their web-page, ‘a cell-phone sleeping bag.’ For only $8 you can get a little sack in which to place an electronic best friend for the day. It’s not a bad idea at all. So good in fact that HaKodesh Baruch Hu would approve.